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Policy issues concerning Income Distribution and Poverty


Social Justice Ireland’s report ‘Ireland and the Europe 2020 Strategy - A review of the social inclusion aspects of Ireland’s National Reform Programme’ has found that overall, current trends in Irish public policy are running counter to the promotion of ‘inclusive growth,’ which is one of the three key priorities which underlie the Europe 2020 Strategy. 
 


How we plan our finances, and what we choose to prioritise, post-Covid-19, will have profound implications for the future of our economy and society. To this end Social Justice Ireland proposed to the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight that the priorities for Budget 2022 should be adequate social welfare rates and poverty reduction, just taxation, housing for all and tackling unemployment. 


More than 15% of all those in poverty in Ireland have a job while more than a quarter are children.  This is one of the main findings of Social Justice Ireland’s latest study ‘Poverty Focus 2021’.  This scandalous situation persists despite the reduction in poverty rates in recent years.  While progress in reducing poverty is welcome, Government’s failure to raise core social welfare rates in the last two Budgets will see this progress reversed.


One of the key tools at our disposal to reduce poverty is social welfare. If Government is serious about reducing poverty and meeting the targets set out in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion then the first step must be to benchmark social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent of average earnings, and to do this over either one or two budgetary cycles.


Social Justice Ireland
believes in the very important role that social welfare plays in addressing poverty.  Without the social welfare system just over 4 in every 10 people in the Irish population (41.4 per cent) would have been living in poverty in 2019.  In 2021, as we plan future budgetary priorities, it is important that adequate levels of social welfare be maintained to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.


Ireland is among the signatories of the recent Joint Declaration by the Ministers of the EPSCO Council ‘Overcoming poverty and social exclusion – mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on families – working together to develop prospects for strong children’. If Government is truly committed to the stated objectives of the joint declaration then significant resources and serious political and policy commitment to addressing child and family poverty are required.


The CSO recently published 'Carers and Social Supports' as part of of the Irish Health Survey 2019 which gives data and insight into the lives of Carers in Ireland.  Almost one in eight people aged 15 and over provide care in Ireland, more women (14%) than men (11%) are carers, people in the age group 45-54 provide the most care, and, almost one in five carers report some form of depression.  


The deprivation figures published by the CSO 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. 


Government should increase in core social welfare rates of €7 per week in Budget 2021 and set a three-year target for Government to reach the benchmark of 27.5 per cent of average earnings.  In the forthcoming Budget Government should also complete the equalisation of Jobseeker’s rates for young people under 26, introduce a cost of disability allowance and introduce a universal state pension.

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