Government criticised for setting ‘unrealistic’ poverty targets

The Government has been criticised for setting unrealistic targets for reducing poverty. The latest figures for those in consistent poverty are more than double the level at which the Government had been aiming.

Government criticised for setting ‘unrealistic’ poverty targets

In 2012 — at the height of the recession — the Government set a target of reducing consistent poverty from 6.3%, in 2010, to 4%, by 2016, and 2% or less by 2020.

According to Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, data from the CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) shows that consistent poverty rose sharply after 2010, to a peak of 9.1%, in 2013.

“The latest SILC 2016 data, released by the CSO in December, 2017, indicate that this had reduced to 8.3%,” she said.

People considered to be in consistent poverty have an income below a certain threshold (less than 60% of median income), which leaves them unable to afford two or more of 11 goods or services considered essential for a basic standard of living.

They include having to go without heating in the past year or being unable to afford items such as two pairs of strong shoes, a warm waterproof coat, and, every second day, a meal with meat, chicken, or fish.

Ms Doherty said the target the Government set in 2012 was “ambitious, particularly during the time of economic recession, but one to which the Government has remained committed”.

However, she admitted that a reduction of six percentage points would now be required to meet the 2020 poverty target.

“The impact of the recovery is not yet fully reflected in these most recent data, which reflect income conditions in 2015 to 2016,” she said. “Macro-economic and labour market indicators have shown continued economic and employment growth since then.

“Unemployment has fallen from 9.4%, in mid-2015, to 6.1% towards the end of 2017. The number of people in receipt of working-age income and employment supports has also continued to fall.”

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said that, at the current rate at which the numbers in consistent poverty is dropping, it is impossible to think that the Government’s 2020 target would be met.

He said that when one looks at the rate for children, it has gone from 12.7%, in 2014, to 11.5%, in 2015, and to 11.1%, in 2016, “meaning 97% of the children who were in consistent poverty in 2015 were still in consistent poverty in 2016”.

He said there is no point in having targets that are unrealistic and urged the minister to direct social welfare expenditure to measures to tackle consistent poverty in a real way.

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