Social Justice Ireland has released a damning report revealing horrific levels of poverty and deprivation in Ireland. Of the 640,000 people living in poverty, 200,000 are children. Additionally, the report states that 885,977 people are experiencing hardship and deprivation. 293,258 of these children. 98,100 people living in poverty are in employment; the “working poor”.
Social Justice Ireland is a charity which acts as an independent think tank, undertaking research into social justice issues in Ireland. The charity claims that the report’s findings show that the recent budget was a failure. The bumper budget, which provided supports for many in an effort to ward off the worst economic and social effects of the coronavirus pandemic, left some of the most vulnerable out in the cold.
Social Justice Ireland claims that not increasing core social welfare rates in the budeget was the Government’s fatal error.
The charity’s Director Dr Seán Healy said, “Despite allocating more resources than any previous Budget in the history of the State, the distribution of those resources was such that the gap between the poor and the better off will widen in 2021 and inequality will increase. This is a totally unacceptable outcome.”
“In calculating how people’s incomes will change in 2021 it is important to realise that people with jobs are likely to see increases in their take-home pay in the coming year. Public servants will see an increase of 2% while the pay of other sectors is also expected to increase. In contrast to that, people on core social welfare payments depend on the Budget alone to increase their incomes,” he went on,
Social Justice Ireland had some advice for Government and policy makers:
- Acknowledge that Ireland has an on-going poverty and deprivation problem.
- Adopt targets aimed at reducing poverty and deprivation among particularly vulnerable groups such as children, lone parents, jobless households, and those in social housing.
- Examine and support viable alternative policy options aimed at giving priority to protecting vulnerable sectors of society.
- Carry out in-depth social impact assessments prior to implementing proposed policy initiatives that impact on the income and public services on which many low-income households depend. This should include the poverty-proofing of all public policy initiatives.
- Recognise the problem of the ‘working poor’. Make tax credits refundable to address the situation of households in poverty which are headed by a person with a job.
- Support the widespread adoption of the Living Wage so that low paid workers receive an adequate income and can afford a minimum, but decent, standard of living.
- Introduce a cost of disability allowance to address poverty and social exclusion of people with a disability.
- Recognise the reality of poverty among migrants and adopt policies to assist this group. In addressing this issue, replace direct provision with a fairer system that ensures adequate allowances are paid to asylum seekers.
- Accept that persistent poverty should be used as the primary indicator of poverty measurement and assist the CSO in allocating sufficient resources to collect this data.
- Move towards introducing a basic income system. No other approach has the capacity to ensure all members of society have sufficient income to live life with dignity.
- Acknowledge the failure to meet repeated policy targets on poverty reduction and commit sufficient resources to achieve credible new targets.