By Cian Molloy - 20 February, 2017
More needs to be done, otherwise too many of our children will spend their childhoods going without basics like secure housing, healthy food and suitable clothing.
More than one in twelve Irish people are living in consistent poverty, according to a Central Statistics Office (CSO) report published earlier this month. These figures confirm the experience of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) as its volunteers struggle to help those most in need.
The survey on ‘Income and Living Conditions’ published by the CSO shows that hundreds of thousands of people are struggling because of poverty, low income and the high cost of housing and accommodation.
According to the CSO survey, 16.9% of our population, more than one in six, is now at risk of poverty and 8.7%, more than one in twelve, is in consistent poverty.
The highest rates are among children, one-parent families, those out of work and those with low levels of educational attainment. This is a pattern that has persisted over the past decade, said SVP policy officer Caroline Fahy.
“The government has set an ambitious target to lift 97,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020,” she said. “These figures show that in spite of some improvement, progress is slow.”
In the meantime, charities such as the SVP are helping those who are in desperate circumstances. Last year, the society received more than 130,000 calls for help from across the country, with most calls coming from households with children.
Ms Fahy said: “More needs to be done if we are to make significant progress on tackling child poverty, otherwise too many of our children will spend their childhoods going without basics like secure housing, healthy food and suitable clothing and will be excluded from participating in everyday activities that other children and families take for granted.
“While some positive measures in terms of childcare and income supports have been introduced, families need to be able to access an adequate income and good quality public services if we want to see a meaningful reduction in the poverty rate.”
As rents continue to increase drastically, poverty among tenants living in the private rented sector continues to increase. SVP members who are visiting individuals and families who are renting see the hardship imposed by increasing rents, where households, fearful of becoming homeless, often prioritise paying the rent over heating and eating.
More than 2,500 children are now living in emergency homeless accommodation, demonstrating the extent of the crisis and its impact.
The CSO report highlights the growing importance of social welfare payments, child benefit and pensions in preventing people from falling into poverty, said Ms Fahy. “Without these supports almost half of our population would be at risk of poverty.”