By Ann Marie Foley - 08 September, 2020
Urgent action is needed to prevent deepening poverty, according to the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) which has highlighted a report* stating that an extra 140,000 Irish people faced enforced deprivation during 2019.
The impact of COVID-19 in 2020 is likely to further increase the number of people facing enforced deprivation, which means going without the basics such as nutritious food, adequate heating or suitable clothing.
“The CSO figures are for 2019. Taking the effects of COVID-19 into account, the 2020 poverty figures are likely to deteriorate even further unless urgent action is taken across Government departments,” said Dr Tricia Keilthy, head of social justice, SVP.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) data on enforced deprivation shows almost 900,000 people were going without basics prior to the pandemic – an increase of over 140,000 from the previous year. More than one in five children are now experiencing enforced deprivation. One-parent families, who have been disproportionately impacted financially by COVID-19, continue to experience the highest rates of enforced deprivation (45.4 per cent).
“The fact that almost half of lone parents were experiencing enforced deprivation prior to the pandemic is very concerning. Due to school and childcare closures, many parents have had to give up work to care for their children and many are now at risk of long-term unemployment. While the pandemic is ongoing, families need access to adequate income supports to prevent a deepening of child poverty and a rise in family homelessness,” said Dr Keilthy.
The living conditions of those in the private rented sector is also a major worry, as the rate of deprivation increased from 27.4 per cent in 2018 to 34.4 per cent in 2019. “The data confirms the experience of SVP members who have seen housing costs as a key driver of poverty and financial hardship in recent years. Individuals and families living in the private rented sector often have to cut back on basics like food and heating to keep a roof over their head,” added Dr Keilthy.
A very high proportion of people unable to work due to permanent illness or disability also suffer from enforced deprivation (43.3 per cent).
Another Catholic body, Social Justice Ireland (SJI), stated that the yearly increase of more than 140,000 and the fact that deprivation is increasing for almost every socio-demographic group is “of real concern”.
The figures show that households with one adult and one or more children, and people not at work due to illness or disability, continue to experience the highest rates of deprivation.
This is a persistent problem, and one the Government must urgently address, stated SJI. It said the fact that so many children are now facing deprivation erases all the progress of the last few years in this area, and added that one-parent families have a deprivation rate more than double that of any other household type measured.
SJI expressed particular concern as 2020 is a year in which a number of poverty-related targets were to have been met, but this is unlikely to happen now. “Our failure to meet our own poverty targets and address poverty and deprivation among children, single-parent households and people with a disability is unacceptable. These vulnerable groups are falling further behind the rest of society,” stated SJI.
It added that in order to cope with the social and economic fallout of COVID-19, the Irish Government needs to increase social welfare payments, equity of social welfare rates, adequate payments for children, refundable tax credits, decent rates of pay for low-paid workers, a universal state pension, and a cost of disability payment. This process should start in the upcoming Budget.
SJI has proposed a €7 increase in core social welfare payments in Budget 2021.
* The ‘Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC): Enforced Deprivation 2019’, on which these numbers are based, was published last week by the CSO.