LOBBY group Social Justice Ireland has described the number of people at risk of poverty in Ireland as extremely disturbing.
Director Fr Sean Healy said almost 615,000 people were at risk of poverty and nearly 200,000 were children.
He described the 116,000 people who were employed as the working poor.
“All of these numbers are extremely disturbing,” said Fr Healy.
The organisation’s latest policy briefing, published today accuses the Government of forgetting lessons learned in recent years and reversing strategies that had been reducing poverty.
It warns that child poverty is likely to rise because they were one of the big losers in the budget.
The number of working poor is also set to rise as the Government failed to address this issue in recent years.
The document also details regional differences in the levels of poverty with 9.3% of people in Dublin at risk of poverty, compared to 22.7% in the midlands.
According to Social Justice Ireland, €224.75 is the minimum weekly disposable income that one adult needs this year to receive to be outside the poverty line.
For each adult in the household the minimum income figure is increased by €148.33 and for each child, €74.17.
It argues that increasing the lowest social welfare rates was the key to reducing poverty from 19.75% in 2003 to a record low of 13.9% in 2008.
It points out that the approach to social welfare had been supplemented by a wide range of initiatives aimed at mobilising local communities to tackle poverty effectively in their area.
What the budget did, however, was reduce welfare rates by more than the fall in the cost of living for poor people and cut funding for organisations and programmes addressing poverty and social exclusion.
Fr Healy said the Government had claimed it had no choice in making the decisions it made but this was not true.
Social Justice Ireland had showed how adjustments of €4bn could have been made without cutting social welfare rates and without cutting funding for organisations tackling poverty and social exclusion.
Fr Healy said it was now likely that Ireland would mark this year, the EU Year Against Poverty and Social Exclusion by increasing poverty and social exclusion.
He challenged the Government to stop targeting Ireland’s most vulnerable people and mark the year by adopting zero poverty as its goal for 2020.
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