Community Activists Lorraine and Jimmy discuss #Addthe10th at a UN webinar on “Social Justice Through Policy”.

On Tuesday 6th February ATD Ireland Community Activists Jimmy and Lorraine presented at UN Webinar on “Eliminating Inequity and Systemic Exclusion: A Rights based approach to Social and Economic Policy Justice”.  This was a side event to the 62nd Commission on Social Development, organized by Maryann Broxton, ATD Fourth World’s Representative at the United Nations. 

“Halfway to the deadline for the 2030 Agenda, we are leaving more than half the world behind”

The focus of this event was outlining examples of good practice social policies which can put social and economic justice into action, given the current context of rising inequalities, continuing discrimination and stunted progress on the sustainable development goals.

Setting out the global social and economic context and introducing the panel was moderator Ms. Celine Fabrae Pierre Counselor, Permanent Mission of Haiti to the United Nations.

“Discrimination is making somebody feel worthless and making judgements about a person based on the area they come from. We don’t feel like we get treated with the same respect”.

“Hi my name is Lorraine and I’m a community activist with ATD Ireland.  You do not need eyes to see poverty. What I mean by that is you can smell it.  Some parts of Dublin, what we call the posh places, it’s clean.  The air is clean but if you go into the city centre you smell rubbish, you smell the homeless because they don’t have the facilities to even take care of themselves… Socio- economic discrimination impacts access to basic human rights.  Discrimination is making somebody feel worthless and making judgements about a person based on the area they come from.  We don’t feel like we get treated with the same respect.  This also effects families because it could be based on poverty, it could be based on exclusion and access to particular services and in a lot of rural areas on a surname.  Socio- economic status impacts across many generations and it can take many generations to break that cycle.

I’m going to give you some real- life stories from people I’ve met over the years including myself of socio-economic discrimination.  I was an addict and I got clean.  I was on a very small amount of methadone I got pregnant and I wasn’t allowed to continue to reduce, I needed to stay on it.  When I was in hospital, I noticed nurses helping other mothers even taken the babies so the mothers could rest and I was left in a corner isolated with no help.  I was in hospital when a social worker came to my bed and I wanted to run out the door with my baby because I thought they were coming to take my child.  I feel because I was on methadone I was judged by these nurses.  I know loads of women and men who were housed but when they try go for a job in Ireland you need experience.  These people had no choice but to get a social welfare payment. The inner- city people never stood a chance we’ve been getting put down for years by the media we were called the commoners.  You see not everyone got to even finish school. I know this girl and in school she failed a spelling test.  After that she was put to the back of the class and didn’t participate in any spelling tests.  She said it was like the teacher gave up on her and didn’t want to put in the extra bit of help.  Our government has the money to fix some of these problems but instead they want to make bicycle lanes on roads, they want to fix the little pot holes on path ways but will step over a homeless person to do so and that I can’t understand.  Ireland is losing its self and we the people cannot let this happen, not just our country but every country… a last example a woman recently quit her job she was working in a private creche in a posh area but none of the staff engaged with her, they would all go to lunch and leave her on her own.  There was no communication between staff and her and she felt this was because she came from the inner city and the way we speak, they look down their noses at us like we’re dirt.  I will continue to fight this so my children never have to experience socio-economic discrimination like we have.  We have many more examples like this in our ‘Breaking Barriers’ report.  Discrimination has many long term and serious impacts.  People fall into a trap of intergenerational poverty led down from grandparents to parents to children.  Thank you for this opportunity”. 

"We have brought the campaign to the Irish Government, to the EU and the UN. I feel it’s about raising our voice and being heard".

“My name is Jimmy and I am a community activist with ATD Ireland.  I have been introduced to ATD 15 years ago which fights against anti- poverty campaign.  We as an organisation decided to take action on the #addthe10th to fight against socio- economic discrimination.  We are part of an alliance called #addthe10th.  This group is working to have socio- economic status recognized as the tenth ground of discrimination in equality legislation.  Those who live in poverty walk the shoes of poverty.

Discrimination could be due to the way you speak, your culture or your background or the way you look.  I feel this is the time to stand up to all policies to make the final decision to stop all discrimination.  We have a social media campaign where we ask people to take a picture with a jigsaw piece- this is the missing 10th ground.  This campaign has involved people in every county in Ireland and has gone international.   We done lectures in Trinity College, Galway and other conferences.  During the lectures we spoke about the campaign and educated them about the discrimination.  We spoke to social work students about what it is like to have social work in your life and about leaving the care system.  People should know their rights about leaving the care system and make sure they know their entitlements.  This can help stop judgement between social workers and the people they work with.  There has to be respect.  Actions like this helps prevent discrimination beyond having legal protection. We have brought the campaign to the Irish Government, to the EU and the UN.  I feel it’s about raising the voice and being heard.  The campaign has been in the Dail and voted on by Irish ministers in 2023.  Although not successful, it’s back on the agenda in 2024.  This will never be shut down and we feel that this is a benefit for this to go beyond Ireland and Europe. Because at the end of the day, we are human and we are reality.

We have done many projects raising awareness about discrimination, most recently our breaking Barriers report (Read here).  This report is about understanding what discrimination is and feels like. This project brings together the voices of those with lived experience of discrimination, academics and professionals.  The most important part of the campaign has been about listening to people who are living in poverty.   Thank you”. 

Olivier and Jean saluted their both speeches.
Some words included within the speech of Lorraine touched particularly the members of the panel and illustrated perfectly, the fact that the poverty around the Dublin streets is perceptible.

“Housing is more than a roof”

Ms Jean Quinn, DW Executive Director, UNANIMA International, Chair, NGO Committee for Social Development then shared her statement.

She spoke on rising inequalities within and between the Global North and South and the unsustainability of the current economic system.  Jean also insisted on the fact that cleavage between the wealthiest people and the poorest people, is more and more important after the Covid. 

She then spoke on the need for safe, stable and affordable housing for all, which is embedded within SDG 11.

Jean shares some key policy recommendations including;

  • Mechanisms of accountability to ensure States respect their obligations on the right to adequate housing
  • Implementation of rights- based policies such as the Combined Housing First and Supported Housing Models
  • Implementation of legislation and community services which challenge and mitigate forced evictions and foreclosures.
  • Preparations for increased rural to urban migration.

Social and economic justice for all requires a paradigm shift for people, place, and planet which orients development to the full realisation of human rights, regardless of one’s socio- economic status”.

Lorraine and Jimmy responded to this presentation by discussing the high levels of homelessness in Ireland and the barriers to access to housing.  This includes evidence of landlords not accepting HAP although this practice has been made illegal within the equality legislation.  They also talk about the vast amounts of unused and derelict buildings around Dublin which could be used to house the homeless. 

“The idea of deservingness stops anti- poverty programs from being more effective”

We then listened to a video intervention from Ms. Ife Finch Floyd; Director of Economic Justice, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

She discussed the American safety net and social security systems in the US.  Evidence suggests that Black, Latino and indigenous people have consistently experienced high levels of poverty.  This is due to “systemic racism, not only within the economic system and labour markets but also safety nets”.

Historically, the concept of deservingness or the deserving poor have prevented anti- poverty programmes from having the sufficient impact and reaching those who are struggling.  However, in the US there is now a movement towards unrestricted cash such as through a guaranteed basic income.  There is momentum towards this in Europe also.  Last October Community Activist Christina spoke at the Social Platform “Over the Poverty Line” Conference at the European Parliament in Brussels.  ATD Fourth World joined the social platform in their call for an EU directive on minimum income.  Read more here.

"From Participation to co- construction"

Finally, we had a contribution from Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.

He emphasises the urgent need to ban povertyism or socio- economic discrimination. Olivier kept the meeting and put on the spotlight, the difficulties that people with an experience of poverty meet daily. In fact, Olivier insisted on the connection between housing issues and abilities to people to through away their socio-economic situation.

Indeed, even if people have income to pay for accommodation, they can see this right refused based on socio-economic discrimination. So, the government needs to intervene and solve these troubles. However, governments must be careful regarding the ways chosen. To illustrate, he talked about more than 70 accommodations built to welcome families in situations of poverty. Nevertheless, these accommodations were far from facilities such as schools, hospitals, and shops… and without enough public transport to fix these issues.

He also highlighted that the recognition of the socio-economic status as a ground of discrimination in the legal framework will be not enough. For example, solving housing issues requires regulating the level of rent and the square meter cost.

He also addresses the need for political and policy making structures to have greater participation of people with lived experience.  Not only this but we need to move beyond participation but to co- construction.  Participation is not just about being consulted and informed but involvement in “design and implementation”.  Olivier references the upcoming conference “Addressing the Hidden Dimensions of Poverty in Knowledge and Policies” in collaboration with ATD Fourth World and the World Bank.  This conference will draw on “The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty International Research”, and will feature presentations from ATD Fourth World members including Dann Kenningham from ATD Ireland who co- ordinated the research in the UK.

Lorraine and Jimmy finished the webinar by inviting the panelists and the audience to get involved in and support the #Addthe10th campaign.

Thank you so much to Jimmy and Lorraine for their really important contributions at this webinar.  We are really proud of them and grateful for all their efforts and sharing their important insights. Thank you very much to Maryann for inviting us to take part and giving us the opportunity to speak about the #Addthe10th campaign.  Echoing Olivier De Schutter’s thoughts on the need to move beyond participation to design and implementation, it is so important those with lived experience of poverty are invited to contribute to events like this which are solution focused.  Thank you very much to moderator Ms. Celine Fabrae and to all the panelists for sharing their knowledge and for listening to and engaging with ATD’s presentations.