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Children still living in poverty in Ireland

By Ann Marie Foley - 21 December, 2017

Children are living in households which are going 24 hours without a substantial meal, or being cold because parents are unable to afford to heat the home.

Without social welfare payments, 44.9% of Ireland’s population would be living in poverty, according to Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland.

Commenting on the latest *CSO poverty study Dr Healy went on to state “It is important to note how critically important social welfare is in addressing poverty.”

He explained that thanks to current social welfare payments 16.5% of Ireland’s population is living in poverty. “Such an underlying poverty rate suggests a deeply unequal distribution of income,” he said.

Social Justice Ireland (SJI) want the government to benchmark social welfare payments to ensure that poverty is eliminated among people who depend on such payments. 790,000 people are living in poverty in Ireland today according to the statistics. He pointed out that despite an increase in average incomes and other signs of economic recovery, these figures show that a significant proportion of the population is still living in very difficult circumstances.

“These figures are unacceptable in a rich, developed country like Ireland”, he said.

Barnardos Children’s Charity, commenting on the same CSO statistics,  stated that it is “distressing” that child poverty rates have not significantly improved as one in nine children in Ireland continue to live in consistent poverty. Head of Advocacy, June Tinsley, said, “Yet again we see shockingly little progress on tackling child poverty in Ireland. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world it is a stain on our prosperity that almost 139,000 children are living in consistent poverty.” The figures show that 132,102 children were in consistent poverty in 2015 and 138,949 in 2016

She stated that the Government has a target of lifting 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020, but there is no significant shift yet. Poverty affects every aspect of a child’s life – their health, wellbeing, education and consequently their future.

She added that families and children in a poverty trap are more likely to be victims of the homelessness crisis as they cannot afford rapidly rising rents. Furthermore, during 2016, those living in rented accommodation were more likely live in consistent poverty than those living in homes that they own.

Consistent poverty means that these children are living in households with incomes below 60% of the national median income and experiencing deprivation based on the agreed 11 deprivation indicators. These include going 24 hours without a substantial meal, or being cold because parents are unable to afford to heat the home. It means not having two strong pairs of shoes, or a warm jacket to keep out the cold.

Under half of those living in consistent poverty (48.1%) reported going without heating at some stage in the last 12 months.

The Annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), on which these numbers are based, was published on Monday 19th December by the CSO. It shows that: 790,000 people in Ireland are living in poverty; 1 million people in Ireland are experiencing deprivation; and 105,000 people living in poverty are in employment; the “working poor”.

Eamon Murphy, Economic and Social Analyst, SJI, said that these figures are “extremely worrying” given that there is falling unemployment and Ireland. He said there are still too many “working poor”.  “There has been no change in the number of people in employment who are at risk of poverty,” he said. “If the Government wishes to address issues of reducing poverty and ‘making work pay’, policy must prioritise those at the bottom of the income distribution. These policies must be designed to address the wide variety of households and adults in poverty.”

He highlighted  policy proposals by SJI to the Government to make personal tax credits refundable for people with low paid jobs and to support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage – an income sufficient to afford a minimum, but decent, standard of living.

SJI also highlighted rural poverty, citing data that shows that poverty in the Border, Midlands and West region is more than 50% higher per capita than the Southern and Eastern region.

*The CSO’s SILC is a household survey covering income and living conditions. It provides key national poverty indicators, such as the risk of poverty rate, the consistent poverty rate and rates of enforced deprivation.
The CSO calculates a ‘poverty line’ which is 60% of median income, adjusted to take account of family size and composition. Irish data on poverty looks at those living below this 60% line.

The survey shows that while the median annual income increased by just under €600 in 2016, the ‘at risk of poverty’ rate was 16.5%  compared with 16.9% in 2015. There was a slight reduction of consistent poverty rate which was 8.3% in 2016 compared to 8.7% in 2015.

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