More than 25% of those living in poverty in Ireland are children — report

More than 25% of those living in poverty in Ireland are children — report

Child benefits, the group says, are also a key route to tackling child poverty, given its particular value to families on the lowest incomes. File picture: Photocall Ireland

More than one in four people living in poverty in Ireland is a child, according to new figures.

The Poverty Ireland 2021 report from Social Justice Ireland, which is based on a 2019 survey, shows that there are some 190,000 children living in Irish households experiencing poverty.

Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, some 630,000 people were living below the poverty line — about one-eighth of the entire country.

According to data published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the Economic and Social Research Institute in 2019, the poverty line is calculated as being 60% of median income — €275.73 a week.

Now, two years later, this amount has increased to €286.48 for a single person.

Social Justice Ireland expects that these "scandalous" and "alarming" figures are likely to rise even further in the near future as Ireland comes out of the pandemic.

The independent think-tank says that poverty solutions hinge on issues such as adequate adult welfare rates and decent rates of pay and conditions for working parents. 

Child benefits, the group says, are also a key route to tackling child poverty, given its particular value to families on the lowest incomes. 

"This scandalous situation persists despite the reduction in poverty rates in recent years," said CEO of Social Justice Ireland, Seán Healy.

This report, which is based on the CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions shows that the proportion of the population in poverty has fallen by about 3% over the last five years.

Mr Healy said that, while any reduction in poverty levels is welcome, the Government’s failure to raise core social welfare rates in the last two budgets would likely "see this progress reversed".

Need to 'ensure mistakes of the past are not repeated'

"In 2021, as we plan future budgetary priorities, it is important that adequate levels of social welfare be maintained to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated," said research and policy analyst with Social Justice Ireland, Michelle Murphy.

"The annual cost of the consequences of poverty to Ireland is almost €4.5bn. 

"Put simply, €1 in every €20 collected by the State from taxes, social insurance, and charges ends up being allocated by the State to make up for the way that poverty damages people’s lives."

Ms Murphy noted that people on low incomes are more likely to suffer from chronic illness and that children living in poverty have poorer educational outcomes. 

"Investing in low-income welfare-dependent families by increasing social welfare rates would reduce this cost to the State. 

"It would help us reach our poverty targets and ensure a better quality of life for those families," she added.

Other findings

The study also shows that a further 15% of all of those in poverty have a job.

Parents and carers comprised 13.4% of those under the poverty line. 

Those unable to attend work because of illness or disability represented 12.3%, while the unemployed represented 10.9%. 

"While there is hope for the future as the pandemic slowly recedes, the reality of life on a low income will remain the norm for a large proportion of our society," said Mr Healy.

"If poverty rates are to fall in the years ahead, Social Justice Ireland believes that increases in social welfare payments, adequate payments for children, decent rates of pay for low-paid workers, and a cost of disability payment are required."

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