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Here are the latest poverty figures for Ireland

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that there was a modest improvement in poverty rates in 2017, with a decrease in the rate of consistent poverty.

The figures, contained in the CSO’s latest Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), show that the consistent poverty rate, which includes people both at risk of poverty and experiencing enforced deprivation, is at 6.7%, down from 8.2%.

The survey put the at risk of poverty rate, which is the share of people whose income was less than 60% of the national median income, at 15.7% compared with 16.2% in 2016 and nearly 17% in 2012.

The survey showed the rate of enforced deprivation, defined as not being able to afford two or more deprivation indicators; such as keeping the home adequately warm or buying presents for family/friends at least once a year, fell to 18.8% from 21%.

The most common types of deprivation experienced by Irish households were an inability to afford to replace worn out furniture (20.4%), to afford to have family or friends for a drink or a meal once a month (13.9%) and to afford a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight (13.2%).

However, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) children and lone parents, in particular, continue to experience high levels of poverty and deprivation.

The charity said it reflects their experience, as they are getting an average of 1,000 calls for help every day from worried families in the run-up to Christmas.

Kieran Stafford, SVP National President, said: “The position of many people in private, rented accommodation remains of grave concern. Increasing rents mean that households are going without essentials as they prioritise their rent payments over other expenses for fear of losing their homes.

"Many of the people we visit are paying high rents to live in substandard accommodation, often in a bad state of repair with poor heating and insulation because they have no alternative.

"Some Housing Assistance Payment tenants are paying top-ups to their landlords, which can be unsustainable in the long run, leaving families vulnerable to becoming homeless.

"The housing crisis is a scandal that continues to impact on every aspect of people’s lives.”

Caroline Fahey, SVP Head of Social Justice, also highlighted the plight of homeless children and those in Direct Provision centres.

Ms Fahey said: "These households do not show up in official poverty statistics. Parents are trying to shield their children from the worst effects of poverty but growing up homeless with an inadequate income and lack of access to essential services is extremely difficult for children and prevents them from reaching their full potential in the long term.”

Dr Seán Healy, Director, Social Justice Ireland, said that around a third of the 760,000 people living in poverty in Ireland today are children.

He said: "Of this number, around 230,000 are children under the age of 18. Despite an increase in average incomes, increased employment and very high levels of economic growth, these figures show that a significant proportion of the population is still living in very difficult circumstances.

“In fact, there are more people living in poverty in Ireland today than there were in 2008. Government policy is not working, and these figures are unacceptable”.

Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst at Social Justice Ireland, said: “It is important to note how critically important social welfare is in addressing poverty.

"Without social welfare payments, 43.8% of Ireland’s population would be living in poverty, instead of 15.7%. Such an underlying poverty rate suggests a deeply unequal distribution of income” –

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said: “Too many children in Ireland are living with the shame of poverty. They learn not to ask their parents for anything. It affects their physical health, their mental health, their ability to focus in school and to participate in normal childhood experiences."

Social Justice Ireland has previously published 10 policy proposals for addressing income inequality and reducing poverty rates.

    These are:

  • Set a goal of eliminating poverty in the course of a single five-year Dáil term.
  • Benchmark social welfare payments – to ensure that poverty is eliminated among people who depend on social welfare.
  • Ensure equity of social welfare rates – to stop the discrimination against certain groups on an arbitrary basis such as age.
  • Provide adequate payments for children – to end child poverty.
  • Make personal tax credits refundable – to tackle poverty among people with low-paid jobs and create a more equitable tax credit system.
  • Support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage – so that inequality can be reduced and low-paid workers receive an income sufficient to afford a minimum, but decent, standard of living.
  • Introduce a cost of disability payment – to ensure that people with disabilities are not driven into poverty by the additional cost of their disability.
  • Introduce a universal state pension – to ensure all older people have sufficient income to live with dignity.
  • Prioritise measures for the reduction of rural poverty – to redress the current imbalance between urban and rural poverty in Ireland.
  • Introduce a full Basic Income system – to replace the parts of the social welfare system that are no longer fit for purpose. The introduction of a universal state pension and refundable tax credits should be the first step towards such a system.