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Rising deprivation rate means an extra 143,000 people forced to go without

  • 17.8 per cent of the population experienced enforced deprivation in 2019.
  • About 886,000 people were experiencing deprivation, an increase of about 143,000 from 2018.
  • Households with one adult and one or more children have the highest deprivation rate of 45.4 per cent.
  • People not at work due to a permanent illness or disability have a deprivation rate of 43.3 per cent.
  • More than one in three people living in rented accommodation experience deprivation.
  • Almost every socio-demographic group experienced an increase in enforced deprivation rates between 2018 and 2019.

The deprivation figures published by the CSO today show that almost 900,000 people still struggle to achieve a basic standard of living. The yearly increase was more than 140,000, and the fact that deprivation is increasing for almost every socio-demographic group is of real concern.   The latest figures show that households with one adult and one or more children, and people not at work due to illness or disability continue to experience the highest rates of deprivation. This is a persistent problem, and one the Government must urgently address.

The figures released today offer some insight into living standards across the state.  Of particular concern to us is the fact that almost one in every four children are living in a household that experiences enforced deprivation. This practically erases all the progress of the last few years in this area. It’s also worth pointing out that one-parent families have a deprivation rate more than double that of any other household type measured.

2020 marks a year when a number of recent poverty-related targets were to have been met. Sadly, none of these will be achieved this year. Ireland’s national target is to reduce ‘consistent poverty’ (a combined deprivation and poverty indicator) to 2 per cent or less by 2020. The deprivation figures released today suggest that, yet again, we will miss this target.  Our failure to meet our own poverty targets, and address poverty and deprivation among children, single parent households and people with a disability is unacceptable.  These vulnerable groups are falling further behind the rest of society.

If we are to cope with the social and economic fallout of Covid-19 and prevent the large increase in deprivation that occurred after the 2008 crash we need to see an increase in social welfare payments, equity of social welfare rates, adequate payments for children, refundable tax credits, decent rates of pay for low paid workers, a universal state pension, and a cost of disability payment.  This process should start in the upcoming Budget.  Social Justice Ireland is proposing a €7 increase in core social welfare payments in Budget 2021. This would set Government on the correct path to benchmark social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent of average weekly earnings over a three-year period, which was the standard set in 2007.

Budget 2020 failed to deliver an increase to the minimum social welfare payment.  A repetition of this failure in Budget 2021 would leave those who are most vulnerable in a very difficult position and see them fall further behind. This is not the time to repeat the mistakes of the past.  

Policy recommendations:

  • If poverty and deprivation rates are to fall in the years ahead, Social Justice Ireland believes that in the period ahead Government, and policymakers generally, should:
  • 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.

The 'Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC): Enforced Deprivation 2019' on which these numbers are based, was published today by the CSO.