Single-parent families suffer worst rate of poverty

EU income survey says proportion at risk of poverty has grown since 2013, from 15.2% to 16.3% last year

One Family chief executive Karen Kiernan:  “It is unacceptable to continue to sentence a generation of children to a lifetime of poverty and poor life chances.”  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

One Family chief executive Karen Kiernan: “It is unacceptable to continue to sentence a generation of children to a lifetime of poverty and poor life chances.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The proportion of people at risk of poverty has increased, with single parents and their children suffering the highest rates of deprivation, Central Statistics Office data show. The EU’s Survey on Income and Living Conditions, the results of which for Ireland have just been published, show the proportion of people at risk of poverty has grown since 2013, from 15.2 per cent of the population to 16.3 per cent last year. The proportion in consistent poverty has fallen slightly, from 8.2 per cent to 8 per cent.

To be “at risk of poverty” is to be dependent on an income set at 60 per cent of the median, which last year was a threshold of €10,926 a year. The group at greatest risk of poverty was the unemployed, with 36 per cent at risk in 2014, compared with 37 per cent in 2013. Also at risk in large numbers were students (34 per cent).

Some 32 per cent of households headed by single parents were at risk of poverty last year, compared with 31.7 per cent in 2013. Single-parent households suffered the most deprivation, with 58 per cent at risk of poverty experiencing two or more types of “enforced deprivation”, such as not being able to afford to have friends or family over for a meal or drink, or to replace worn out furniture.

The unemployed (22.6 per cent) and single-parent households (22 per cent) suffered the most consistent poverty.

Consistent poverty is an income below the 60 per cent median income threshold, along with experiencing deprivation of at least two very basic needs, such as a warm overcoat, the ability to eat meat or an equivalent at least every second day or being able to keep the home warm.

Those at least risk of poverty were the over-65s, with 2 per cent in consistent poverty and 10.3 per cent at risk of poverty, compared with 1.9 per cent and 9.2 per cent respectively for 2013. The data shows 11.2 per cent of children were in consistent poverty last year, compared with 11.7 in 2013.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay described the child poverty rates as a “national scandal”.

“We would expect to have seen the beginnings of a reduction in child poverty rates in 2014,” he said. “However, one in nine children still lives in consistent poverty and more than a third of children experience deprivation, while the number of children at risk of poverty has not improved since 2010. This puts paid to the rhetoric that ‘a rising tide will lift all boats’.”

Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family, said the high deprivation rates among one-parent families directly resulted from Government choices and policies. “It is unacceptable to continue to sentence a generation of children to a lifetime of poverty and poor life chances. People parenting alone tell us . . . that they constantly live on the knife edge of poverty. Government continues to enforce ill-formed activation measures without the provision of effective supports such the long-promised, affordable quality childcare.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton however welcomed a reduction in the national levels of deprivation rate, from 30.5 per cent to 29 per cent.