Plea for social partners to help tackle poverty

THE structural causes behind poverty must be urgently addressed in the upcoming social partnership discussions, it was warned yesterday.

Combat Poverty director Helen Johnston said local authorities and regional programmes had a key role to play in tackling poverty. “Structural factors such as unemployment, age dependency, lone parenthood, illness and lack of qualifications are paramount in determining poverty levels,” she said, at a conference in NUI Maynooth, part-hosted by the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA).

“The partnership talks and Budget 2006 offer real opportunities to tackle these structural issues.”

Negotiations on a successor programme to the Sustaining Progress agreement are expected to take place later in the year.

A report commissioned by Combat Poverty from the Economic and Social Research Institute on the spatial distribution of poverty, showed people in Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Longford faced the greatest risk of not being able to afford basic necessities.

The study - Mapping Poverty: National, Regional and County Patterns - found local authority tenants were five times more likely to be at risk of consistent poverty than people in other types of housing.

Donegal had the highest rate of poverty, almost twice the national average, measured on a series of criteria including incomes, housing, local environment, the ability to pay bills and afford various household items.

The survey also found the countryside and villages had slightly higher poverty than other areas.

The report’s authors said: “Poverty remains a spatially diffuse phenomenon. Policies to tackle poverty must continue to prioritise structural causes.”

Professor Rob Kitchin, director of the NIRSA, highlighted poverty as an important issue for the next National Spatial Strategy.

“Combating poverty remains one of the primary concerns of Western Governments. Knowing where the problem lies is central to tackling the causes and outcomes of poverty.

“Mapping poverty is, therefore, an important means by which to examine poverty.

“NIRSA has a wealth of experience mapping social processes and problems and undertaking applied social research and welcomes this research as it highlights the key geographical characteristics of poverty,” he said.

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