Analysis & Comment

In our Poverty Focus published this week, Social Justice Ireland looked at the impact of poverty, in particular child and family poverty.  Over 230,000 children are living at risk of poverty in Ireland today.  Studies undertaken since the mid-1990s indicate that the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has a direct relationship on the causes of death and chronic health issues in adults, with some evidence suggesting it alters a child’s DNA if not addressed in time.  While child poverty is not of itself an ACE, there is a correlation between poverty and ACEs which, if ignored, can affect a child’s whole life.

Living in poverty is a reality for one in five children in Ireland.  This means that around 230,000 children in Ireland are living in families with incomes below the poverty line.  This is one of the main findings from Poverty Focus 2019.  How long more can we afford to ignore these children and their living standards?  This issue can be addressed effectively.  Child poverty can be eliminated.

Recent moves on Ireland's ODA allocation have been positive, but a strategy to bring us to the UN-agreed target of 0.7 per cent of national income is still missing.

There are over 67,000 tenants paying market rent spending more than 40% of their disposable income on housing costs.  Clearly more affordable, sustainable housing is needed. When added to the almost 72,000 households on the social housing waiting list, and the 54,000 households in receipt of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP), the true scale of the housing crisis becomes clear.

The headline social inclusion targets addressed in the Irish National Reform Programme are focussed on employment, education and ‘poverty and social exclusion’.  How is Ireland performing on the social inclusion aspects of our National Reform Programme and our Europe 2020 targets?

According to the latest data released by the Central Bank of Ireland (the Central Bank), non-bank entities held 84,658 home mortgages up to the end of 2018, of which 25,469 are held by unregulated loan owners.  While a larger percentage of these loans are in late stage mortgage arrears than those held by banks, an increasing proportion are not in arrears.  Borrowers who made the decision to enter into one of the most major contracts of their lives, the mortgage on their home, may not be aware of who owns that mortgage and what, if any, protections they have if they get into difficulty making payments.  The Oireachtas is currently considering the No Consent, No Sale Bill 2019 which aims to curb mortgage transfers without the consent of the borrower, with some saying it’s a step too far and will damage the banking industry.  But what about the borrowers?  In terms of consumer protection, does it go far enough?

Ireland has agreed to produce an indicator of persistent poverty, measuring the proportion of the poulation those living below the poverty line in three of the last four years. These measures have yet to materialise, depriving us of the information that should be used as the primary basis for setting poverty targets and monitoring changes in poverty status.

Among the key findings from the National Social Monitor - European Edition are that quality of housing, the burden of housing costs, financial distress, difficulty in making ends meet and the environment are key issues in Ireland and across the European Union.  As we face into European Elections in May these issues are certain to feature strongly.

Social Justice Ireland today launches the latest in our European Research Series 'Recovery in Europe: uneven and incomplete' reviewing the social situation in the 28 EU member states and making some proposals and recommendations for a more sustainable and inclusive future. The report analyses performance in areas such as poverty and inequality, employment, access to key public services
and taxation. These areas are examined in light of the key social policy responses of the European Union to the crisis including the social investment package.

Social Justice Ireland is in favour of the indexation of social welfare rates.  The correct and most appropriate measure against which to index social welfare rates is earnings.  Indexation to other measures such as inflation (or the Consumer Price Index) are inappropriate.

Recent publications

What are the latest data and trends on poverty in Ireland and why is life on a low income the norm for a large proportion of our society?  Social Justice Ireland’s annual Poverty Focus examines the nature and experience of poverty in Ireland and sets out a series of policy solutions. 

This report was compiled by Social Justice Ireland in light of the Europe 2020 Strategy and its high-level targets, and of Ireland’s National Reform Programme. It is the latest in a series that has tracked Ireland’s performance for many years.

In this Spring 2019 publication of our National Social Monitor - European Edition, we outline the present situation on a range of policy issues, comparing Ireland and the rest of Europe, that impact on people’s wellbeing and we assess whether policy is addressing the causes of problems or only their symptoms.   All these issues have implications for Ireland’s economy and how the market performs. However, they also have implications for the wellbeing of all of Europe’s population and for the EU. 

‘Recovery in Europe: uneven and incomplete’ is the twelfth publication in Social Justice Ireland’s European Research Series.  

The purpose of our European Research Series is tocontribute to the debate and discussion on policy issues that affect all members of the European Union. To date this research series has produced comprehensive reviews of Ireland’s performance towards its Europe 2020 targets, a comprehensive examination of the impact of policies pursued by the European Union and its members states after the financial crisis of 2008 and an extensive analysis of how European member states have been performing in terms of social and economic targets after the crisis. Some of this research focussed on those countries most affected by the crisis.

Our paper on Indexation and Social Welfare Rates outlines Social Justice Ireland’s position on indexation, makes proposals regarding maintaining adequate levels of social welfare and indexation, and it also reviews the process by which the basic social welfare payment became benchmarked to 30 per cent of Gross Average Industrial Earnings. 

Recent podcasts/videos

Watch the videos from our 2019 Global Justice Day Seminar here. Professor Charles Clark of St John's University in New York and Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork launched our Sustainable Progress Index 2019, and Coalition 2030 Coordinator Jennifer Thompson responded.

Every year, Social Justice Ireland is the first organisation to produce a comprehensive analysis of the national budget. Our document is published less than 24 hours after the Minister for Finance stands up in Leinster House to give his speech. Click here to read our 24-page analysis, or to watch a video of our Budget Response launch seminar at Buswells Hotel from the morning after the Budget.

Watch Social Justice Ireland's Budget Choices Seminar, which was streamed live from Buswells Hotel on Tuesday June 5th.

Dr. Seán Healy, Colette Bennett and Eamon Murphy talk through our budgetary proposals for 2019, including our analysis of the various crises and infrastructural deficits faced by Ireland, and our revenue-raising measures that can help tackle them.

Social Justice Ireland marks UN World Day of Social Justice each year with a seminar looking at Ireland's progress to date in meeting our responsibilities under the Global Goals. You can view video footage of the seminar here.