Budget ‘must not push pensioners back into poverty’

THE huge progress made in saving pensioners from poverty must not be lost in the December budget, Age Action Ireland has warned.

Responding to a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI) which found the number of older people at risk of poverty fell from 27% in 2004 to 16% in 2007, Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said that “plunging pensioners back into poverty by cutting key social welfare payments in the budget would be unthinkable.”

The charity said that the increase in the contributory and non-contributory state pension between 2004 and 2007 was a key factor in reducing poverty among pensioners.

According to the study, almost 73% of older people were dependent on social welfare for three-quarters or more of their household income in 2007.

It showed a decline in households at risk of poverty from around one in five in 2004 to one in six in 2007.

Dr Helen Russell, co-author of the report, warned that poverty rates would rise if people remained long-term unemployed.

“The problem is if people remain unemployed for 12 months or more they start to experience deprivation.”

Despite increases in child benefit payments and more parents working, a fifth of young children remained at risk of falling below the breadline, with 7% in consistent poverty.

In 2007, 65% of consistently poor children were from lone parent families, compared to 53% in 2004.

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive, Jillian van Turnhout, said the survey showed that in good times or bad children were most likely to fall victim to poverty. She pointed out that last year families with children across all income brackets took the brunt of the budgetary cuts.

“Finding our way out of this economic crisis requires that we change our ways and prioritise children.”

One Family policy and research manager, Candy Murphy, said the organisation was not surprised that the ESRI found a high and increasing level of poverty among children in one parent families.

Ms Murphy welcomed the ESRI’s recommendation that steps are taken to ‘poverty proof’ the next budget to ensure it did not impact heaviest on the poorest families.

Community Minister, Pat Carey, said the ESRI publication, Monitoring Poverty Trends in Ireland 2004-2007, would inform Government thinking in the lead up to the budget. He said protecting those who were most vulnerable was a priority consideration for the Government.

“The success of our economic recovery will not be judged exclusively by our ability to return to economic growth and fiscal stability; it will also be judged by our capacity to emerge from our current problems as a more just, socially inclusive and equitable society.”


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