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Study shows most social welfare rates too low

Most social welfare rates are not adequate to provide a standard of living seen as socially acceptable in Ireland according to a study conducted by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice and Trinity College.

The study published by the Trinity College Dublin Policy Institute on February 6th 2012 presents the results of a year long research project which has established the cost of a minimum standard of living for a variety of Irish family types. Entitled ‘A Minimum Income Standard for Ireland’, the research establishes the cost of a minimum essential standard of living for individuals and households across the entire lifecycle; from children to pensioners. Subsequently the study calculates the minimum income households require to be able to afford this standard of living.

A minimum essential standard of living is defined by the United Nations as one which meets a person’s physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs. To establish this figure, the research adopts a consensual budgets standards approach whereby representative focus groups established budgets on the basis of a households minimum needs, rather than wants. These budgets, spanning over 2,000 goods, were developed for sixteen areas of expenditure including: food,clothing,personalcare,healthrelatedcosts, household goods,household services,communication, social inclusion and participation, education, transport, household fuel, personal costs, childcare, insurance, housing, savings and contingencies. These budgets were then benchmarked, for their nutritional and energy content to ensure they were sufficient to provide appropriate nutrition and heat for families, and priced.

The study establishes the weekly cost of a minimum essential standard of living for five household types, these are:

·         A single person of working ageliving alone

·         A two parent household with two children

·         A single parent household with twochildren

·         A pensioner couple

·         A female pensioner living alone

Within these the analysis distinguishes between the expenditure for urban and rural households and between those whose members are unemployed or work (part-time/full-time). The study also establishes the expenditure needs of a child and how these change across childhood.