One in three lone-parent families live in poverty

ROCKETING numbers of lone-parent families are living in dire poverty with four in five households having to go without heat, food or warm clothing.

Research has revealed that 32.5% of single-parent families were classed as “consistently poor” last year compared with 27.2%the year before.

Yesterday, poverty campaigners said the figures were proof the Government was failing to tackle Ireland’s deep-rooted poverty problem.

The European Union’s survey on income and living conditions revealed 82% of lone-parent households had suffered deprivation at some point during 2006.

The year before, the survey found that 67% of such families had experienced deprivation, which is classed as living on less than €202 a week and going without essentials like heat, food or warm clothing.

Yesterday, One Family, which campaigns for lone-parent households, called on Finance Minister Brian Cowen to use next week’s budget to tackle deprivation.

The survey also revealed two-fifths of one-parent families had less than €212 a week to live on — even though average weekly income in Irish households has topped €1,000 for the first time. The average household now reaps €1,055 a week gross in pay and welfare benefits, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The CSO, which compiled Ireland’s contribution to the EU survey, found that 6.9% of the general population were living in consistent poverty, down from 7% the year before.

The numbers living in relative poverty dropped from 782,550 or 18.5% of Ireland’s 4.3 million population to 719,000 (or 17%).

Yet the survey also revealed almost 372,240 people (8.8% of the population) got into debt through ordinary living expenses like paying bills, buying food and purchasing clothing.

Last night, the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) said rising average household incomes masked Ireland’s stubborn poverty problem.

“In next week’s budget we have asked for a modest increase in social welfare payments and pensions and improved access for services,” said SVP vice-president John Monaghan.

“If these kinds of things are not done then we will not close the gap between rich and poor; and the figure of 7% in consistent poverty will not diminish.”

He said improved social welfare for families on the bottom rung of the ladder would help the poor meet the significant rises in fuel and food bills.

The EU survey found Poland and Lithuania were the union’s poorest countries with 21% of their populations in relative poverty.

The EU average was 16% but Ireland, Greece and Spain were joint third with 20% of their people in relative poverty.

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