Thursday, 13 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
17. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Social Protection in view of the recent Central Statistics Office reports on the increase in poverty and child poverty here, the measures she intends to take; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24752/11]
Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The elimination of poverty is a key objective of Government and the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 (NAPSincl) includes a target to reduce the number of people experiencing consistent poverty to between 2 and 4 per cent by 2012, with the aim of eliminating consistent poverty by 2016. Consistent poverty is the Government’s official measure of poverty. People are in consistent poverty if their household income is below 60% of median income (at-risk-of poverty) and they are living in a household experiencing two or more items of basic deprivation, out of an 11 item list.
The NAPSincl target is reiterated in the National Reform Programme 2010, which sets out Ireland’s commitments to achieving the poverty target in the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Department has overall responsibility in relation to monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the NAPSincl. This involves monitoring poverty trends based on the annual CSO Survey of Income and Living Standards (SILC), a periodic progress report on the detailed actions in the plan and the report on stakeholders’ views articulated at the annual Social Inclusion Forum.
The most recently published SILC data in this area relates to 2009 and it is expected that 2010 SILC data will be available later this year. The 2009 data shows that the challenge to meet the national poverty target in the present economic situation is considerable, as indicated by the rise in the consistent poverty rate from 4.2 per cent in 2008 to 5.5 per cent in 2009. Analysis of the SILC 2009 data suggests that the increase in consistent poverty appears to be driven by an increase in the deprivation element of the measure while the relative income element appears to be largely unchanged.
Arising out of the deliberations in drawing up the National Reform Programme, the Government decided to undertake a comprehensive review of the national poverty target, as proposed in the Memorandum for Government on Ireland’s National Reform Programme under the Europe 2020 Strategy. The purpose of the review is to enable the Government to adopt appropriate and achievable national poverty targets to meet Ireland’s contribution to Europe 2020 and the commitments in the Programme for Government. The review is to be completed by November 2011.
Notwithstanding this review, the overriding objective for the Government is to increase employment and build real and sustainable economic growth and to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. The Government Programme sets out the framework to achieve these aims. Employment opportunities will be increased through labour market activation, skills training and education measures. The Government is committed to ensuring that the social protection system remains an important stabiliser for people against the impact of the economic and fiscal downturn.
Tackling child poverty is a priority for the Government and a key goal of NAPSincl. Four-fifths of those in consistent poverty are found in households with children and 8.7 per cent of children (96,000 in absolute numbers) were in consistent poverty in 2009. Factors contributing to childhood poverty include living in lone parent households, labour market inactivity, low educational attainment and living in households dependent on income support.
Government targets in the area of financial support for low-income families continue to be met. One of the high level goals relating to children in NAPsincl is to maintain the combined value of child income support measures at 33-35 per cent of the minimum adult social welfare payment rate over the course of the plan. The value of the combined child income supports measures (child benefit plus qualified child increases) in both Budget 2010 and Budget 2011 was equivalent to 33 per cent of the main working age payment rates.
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