By Cian Molloy - 13 January, 2018
Despite predictions that Ireland’s economic fortunes are set to improve in 2018, Ireland’s largest charity, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, expects to receive a high number of calls for help in the coming year.
Last year the Society received nearly 130,000 calls for assistance and about €30m was spent by the charity on providing direct assistance to those in need.
“While we would hope for a universal improvement in the ability of all Irish people to benefit from the overall economic improvements, the reality is that it is unlikely to happen,” says SVP National President Kieran Stafford in a New Year statement.
“There are four main conditions that exist that drive people to seek SVP help. They are: the level of consistent poverty; the high number in employment struggling on low pay and inconsistent working hours; the many families with children living in emergency accommodation; and the gap between those who can easily avail of third level education and those from more disadvantaged areas.”
According to the latest figures published by the Central Statistics Office, there was only a marginal improvement in the level of consistent poverty between 2015 and 2016 when it fell from 8.7 per cent to 8.3 per cent, a difference which the CSO says is “not statistically significant”.
However, what is significant, says the SVP, is that there has been little progress in tackling child poverty; indeed, compared with the situation ten years ago, there are now 70,000 more children living in poverty than there were in 2008. More than one in ten Irish children now experience persistent levels of poverty.
One-parent families continue to be one of the groups most likely to be living in poverty, says Stafford. “According to the CSO figures, 24.6 per cent of one-parent families are living in consistent poverty.”
And he also pointed out: “While unemployment figures are reducing, this masks the reality that many of those now employed are in poorly paid or insecure employment and consequently struggle to meet essential bills.”
What is particularly worrying is that many of those living in poverty are actually employed. Almost a quarter of those experiencing deprivation are at work, which demonstrates that employment doesn’t always guarantee a decent standard of living.
New economic approaches and government policies are needed to tackle the problem of persistent poverty and inequality in our society. The SVP president says: “The practical experience of our 11,000 members in visiting and meeting those we help could provide a valuable input into determining how future government policies should be poverty proofed to assist those families that are struggling.”
One bit of good news is that the SVP’s annual pre-Christmas appeal was again strongly supported by the Irish public in December. Mr Stafford said: “That level of support will ensure that SVP members are in a good position to be able to offer help in 2018 to those who continue to struggle.”