ESRI: Vulnerable groups more likely to remain in poverty

People in vulnerable groups such as lone-parent families and adults with a disability are more likely to remain in poverty for longer, according to a new report.

Research conducted by the ESRI shows that from 2004 to 2015, all groups in society deemed at risk of poverty experienced an increase in persistent deprivation, but the risks were always higher for lone parents and working-age adults with a disability.

The figures are based on longitudinal data in the Irish Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) and found that lone parents emerge in all the analyses as the group most affected by poverty and deprivation.

According to the data, persistent deprivation for lone parents grew from 30% during the boom years to almost 45% following the recession.

For working-age adults with a disability, persistent deprivation rose from 15% to 37% over the same period. By comparison, persistent deprivation for other adults aged 30 to 65 was 4% in the boom and 8% following the recession.

Basic deprivation is defined as not being able to afford two or more of 11 basic goods and services such as clothing, home heating, replacing worn-out furniture and having an afternoon or an evening out.

The report by Dorothy Watson, associate research professor at the ESRI, will be launched today.

It also says children are more likely than adults to be found in the vulnerable family types, and the report also outlines a significantly higher rate of both any deprivation and persistent deprivation for children of never-married lone parents than for those of formerly married lone parents.

It also noted a higher risk of deprivation for those in larger families than for children in small families or other working-age adults.

According to the report, lone parents and working-age adults with a disability face barriers to the labour market, and cuts in working hours, earnings or redundancies affect those groups more.

It says “anything that compromises the State’s capacity to supplement their income through the social protection system — such as austerity measures — is likely to disproportionately affect them”.

The report refers to the reduction in the back-to-school allowance and cuts over the period in question to child benefit.

Those vulnerable groups are also more likely to be more reliant on public services, especially health and housing, so any reductions there will also disproportionately affect those groups.

Prof Watson said: “Even though employment has been going up since 2013, deprivation is still high and above where it was in the boom years. The recovery has not reached those vulnerable groups.”

The study also looks at poverty over two-year periods and finds the proportion of people experiencing poverty in at least one of those years is much higher than when measured at a given point in time.

Prof Watson said: “Members of vulnerable groups such as lone parents and those affected by a disability experienced a high rate of persistent deprivation even into the recent recovery period suggesting a need for special supports to enable them to take advantage of the benefits of economic recovery.”

Regarding lone parents and working-age adults with a disability, the report says that policies that benefit these families “will be most effective in narrowing the income poverty gap between children and adults”.

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