More than 250,000 men, women and children have been lifted out of the poverty trap in the last decade, a Government minister claimed today.
But despite whole generations escaping deprivation and hardship, it is feared between 80,000 and 220,000 people in Ireland continue to live on the breadline.
Launching the Combat Poverty Agency conference, Minister for Social Affairs, Seamus Brennan, told how income supports alone, no matter how generous, will not eradicate real poverty.
He called on project workers, organisations and Government bodies to work together to tackle the issue head on.
“If our combined efforts can lift more than a quarter of a million people out of real poverty in less than a decade then together we can go that extra mile,” he said.
“That extra mile means delivering a society in which nobody is denied the chance to live decent and secure lives, free from the clutches of poverty.”
Mr Brennan said the Government’s commitment to reducing poverty and social exclusion has been repeatedly demonstrated, with funding for welfare entitlements, supports and services doubling to almost €14bn since 2000.
But anti-poverty actions are required across all areas of Government policy for a real and lasting impact to be made, he said.
“Child poverty cannot be tolerated in the Ireland of the 21st century,” continued Mr Brennan. “People in their later years are also entitled to lives that have dignity and security.
“Welfare is not about just about making the payments and hoping the problems will go away. It is about providing the stepping-stones that will take people to a better standard of living and income.”
The conference, Mainstreaming Social Inclusion, focused on the results of a three year EU Transnational Exchange Project.
Spearheaded by the Combat Poverty Agency, it highlighted the needs to ensure poverty and social inclusion objectives are integrated into all areas of policy making.
“Putting objectives on poverty and social inclusion into all policies at local and national level is fundamentally linked to eradicating poverty in Ireland,” said Helen Johnston, Director of Combat Poverty.
“Providing income support on its own is not sufficient. We need to ensure that all policy areas, such as health, education, housing, transport, employment, justice and agriculture contribute to eradicating poverty and promoting social inclusion.”
The Combat Poverty Agency was partnered by eight other organisations from six European countries in conducting the project from 2003 to 2005.