The Survey of Income and Living Conditions released by the Central Statistics Office for 2009 shows the Government’s target of eliminating consistent poverty has taken a clear hit, with levels rising from 4.2% in 2008 to 5.5% last year.
Particular increases were noted for children under 17 years, households headed by an unemployed person, those in rented accommodation and students amongst others.
The numbers living in enforced deprivation has increased by more than 25%, with more than 17% of the population experiencing at least two forms of enforced deprivation last year. Enforced deprivation refers to the inability to afford basic specific goods or services such as adequate meals, clothing or shoes for children.
Levels of consistent poverty for lone parent households remain high, while those at risk of poverty remain largely unchanged, down from 14.4% in 2008 to 14.1% last year. The at risk of poverty rate for children was unchanged at 18.6%, as was the worst affected group, lone parent households, where 35.5% were deemed to be at risk of poverty.
The gross household income last year was €56,522, down 6.7%. Disposable income was almost €46,000, down 6.3%. Commenting on the figures, policy and support worker with the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland, Paul Ginnell, said the Government must be held accountable if it fails to meet agreed EU poverty targets.
“Members of the Oireachtas need to be aware of all their EU commitments, not just on fiscal stability but also on their social obligations and the Government must be held accountable if they fail to reach these EU agreed poverty targets,” he said.
He urged the Government not to implement policies outlined in the National Recovery Plan that would lead to increased poverty for those who are already living on or close to the margins.
“Cutting social welfare levels, increasing the tax burden on the lowest paid and cutting essential public services can only result in greater poverty for more people. This will not assist in our economic recovery.
Equality Minister Pat Carey said the figures showed government policy was protecting the most vulnerable in society.