Poverty levels set to increase in 2010

Poverty is set to increase in 2010 according to Social Justice Ireland (SJI). The anti-poverty group has this week published a detailed briefing paper saying that the numbers of children and ‘working-poor’ living in poverty will rise as a direct consequence of Budget 2010.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that in 2008, 615,000 people in the state -14 out of every 100- were living in poverty. 

This figure includes almost 200,000 children and 116,000 people in employment.

Figures are not yet available for 2009.

The government’s 2007 National Action Plan for Social Inclusion define people as living in poverty, ‘if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living that is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally.’

In their poverty statistics, the CSO includes those households with an income below 60 per cent of the median. Social Justice Ireland have calculated that, in 2010, this will mean an annual income of €11,719 for a single person, €15,585 for a lone parent with one child, and €23,321 for a two parent family with two children.

Since 2001 poverty rates have been falling, from a peak of almost 850,000 people in that year. Anti-poverty campaigners believe that this reduction was brought about by the progressive increase in social welfare payments and investment in locally based anti-poverty and social-inclusion projects.

CSO analysis demonstrates that 43 per cent of the population would live in poverty if it were not for social welfare payments.

In last December’s budget the government made significant reductions to social welfare payments and withdrew funding from Community Development Programmes and other similar initiatives in many of the countries most deprived communities.

As a result of these two moves Social Justice Ireland believes that the reduction in poverty levels witnessed in recent years will be reversed.

This increase in the number of people living in poverty will take place during the official EU Year against Poverty and Social Exclusion.

However Social Justice Ireland believes that there is an alternative. They have made a serious of recommendations which they believe would "lead to Ireland’s poverty risk levels falling over the next few years."

The recommendations include setting a "zero poverty" target for 2020; the full implementation of the 2007 National Action Plan for Social-Inclusion; the poverty proofing of all government policy; and a series of specific measures aimed at the specific needs of the long term unemployed, the working poor, children and people with disabilities. 

Social Justice Ireland has described as ‘untrue’ the governments claim that they had no choice but to cut social welfare and anti-poverty programme funding in Budget 2010. The anti-poverty group provided detailed figures in advance of the budget demonstrating providing a fiscally sustainable way of protecting the states poorest families.

The Social Justice Ireland Poverty Policy Briefing can be read in full here

Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, is set to officially launch the Irish Programme for 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion in Dublin tomorrow.