Cautious welcome for drop in poverty levels

The number of people living on low incomes has dropped by 25% since the launch of the first National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS), it was claimed today.

But at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the NAPS, the Combat Poverty Agency argued more work needed to be done.

The warning came as campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said life for those living in poverty was made more difficult by the increased wealth in wider Irish society.

“There may be fewer people living in poverty than there were 10 or 20 years ago, but that does not make it any easier for those who are poor,” she said.

“In fact, it makes it harder.”

A new book, Welfare Policy and Poverty, published by the publicly funded Combat Poverty Agency today claimed government policies had brought about a 25% reduction in the number of people living below 50% of the average income between 1998 and 2007.

The agency was today unable to provide more specific figures on the numbers of people still caught in lower wages, but called for careful Government planning to ensure the improving trend continued.

Kevin O’Kelly, Acting Director of Combat Poverty said: “One of the key findings of this book is that although successive governments have set objectives and targets to reduce poverty and social exclusion, these have often not been fully translated into policies or measures across all policy areas.

“To meet the national target of eliminating consistent poverty by 2016 all policies need to be clearly focused on delivering anti-poverty outcomes.”

Sr Stanislaus said that because Ireland had become more prosperous, many people believed poverty was no longer a problem.

“In the excitement of our recent economic success, we have forgotten about the poor, those on low wages, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the elderly, the homeless, the disabled, addicts, some migrants and asylum seekers, and families struggling to feed and dress their children,” she said.

“It is true that rates of ’consistent poverty’ – the numbers of people living without the basic necessities – have fallen.

“However, 6.5% of 15 to 64 year-olds still live in consistent poverty and that rises to 10% of children.

“And 18.5% of our population lives on survival incomes of less than €209 a week for a single person and €485 for a family of four.

“Currently, our economic system builds social injustices into the fabric of society and aims to keep the rich rich.”

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