The number of children at risk of poverty rose by more than 35,000 in two years between 2007 and 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The income of a household of four on social welfare is currently €80 a week below the poverty line. However, it is crucial to realise that child poverty cannot be addressed in isolation; it needs to be considered within the wider issue of household poverty. These points were made by Social Justice Ireland when it addressed a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children on November 18th, 2011. Social Justice Ireland challenged Government to prioritise the elimination of poverty. It went on to point out that no child can be taken out of poverty while the household in which they live remains in poverty. The long term solution to child poverty is to ensure that all households are lifted out of poverty. In that process all children will also be lifted out of poverty.
In its meeting with the Oireachtas Committee, Social Justice Ireland argued strongly that Child Benefit levels be maintained in Budget 2012. They also presented a set of long term policy proposals to address both household and child poverty.
Child Benefit is a key instrument in tackling child poverty and is of particular benefit to those on low incomes. Social Justice Ireland argued that:
- Child Benefit should not be cut in Budget 2012;
- Most social assistance rates paid to a household of four (2 adults and 2 children) are €80 a week below the poverty line;
- Child Benefit should not be taxed as this creates a form of horizontal inequity;
- The introduction of a second tier payment combined with a reduction in child benefit would introduce poverty and unemployment traps;
- Increasing Child Dependent Additions would create a deeper unemployment trap;
- Government must invest significant resources in universal child and family support services in order to address long term policy implications of increasing birth rates and CSO population projections;
- The introduction of a Basic Income would lift all households out of poverty and eliminate child poverty while also eliminating unemployment traps.
Social Justice Ireland went on to outline how basic income would be the most efficient means of eliminating household poverty, unemployment traps, poverty traps and child poverty in the twenty first century . Social Justice Ireland went on to state that the introduction of a Basic Income system would immediately lift households and children out of poverty whist recognising the right of everyone including children to a share of resources in society.
Social Justice Ireland highlighted three key benefits of Basic Income:
- A Basic Income offers a simple, equitable, fair and transparent income distribution system which would make real progress towards eliminating income poverty;
- A Basic Income removes poverty traps and unemployment traps and ensures that taking up a paid job or working an extra hour is always worthwhile;
- A Basic Income offers an alternative paradigm whose understanding of work recognises a wide range of work that is not paid employment.