The Irish Times view on poverty in Ireland: The forgotten one-in-five

In a State that had its priorities right, putting this right would be at the heart of everything the Government did

File photograph: Getty Images

File photograph: Getty Images

 

Poor childcare services and generational inequalities ensure that Ireland ranks amongst the most socially unjust countries in the developed world. This is not a new development. While limited progress has been made in remedying a dire situation over recent years, a survey by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) found that almost one in five children still live below the poverty line.

Poverty does not always suggest homelessness, although that has emerged as a contributory factor because of the growing shortage in social housing and affordable accommodation. Single-parent families continue to be the group most at risk. They are twice as likely to experience poverty as others. A lack of affordable childcare and sufficient special avenues into training and work experience programmes have tended to perpetuate this cycle.

Commenting on the CSO figures and a rising demand for its services, the St Vincent de Paul pointed to the exposed position of many people in private rented accommodation and said their vulnerability remained a grave concern. Rising rents were forcing families to go without essentials as they prioritised rent payments for fear of losing their homes. Children’s charity Barnardos was critical of the Government’s progress in meeting its commitment to lift children out of poverty while the Children’s Rights Alliance said too many children were living with the shame of poverty.


A young woman with a paper cup begging in Dublin city centre. 



photograph: cyril byrne
A young woman with a paper cup begging in Dublin city centre. photograph: cyril byrne

Trauma and social alienation go hand-in-hand with childhood poverty and homelessness. That is why early State intervention is so important. Some community-based, inter-departmental initiatives fell away because of the recession and have not been fully reactivated. That is a shocking indictment. In such a wealthy country, money should be available to provide homes and basic levels of protection for these children.

The idea that one in five children are living below the poverty line in a country as wealthy as this is a staggering indictment of official policy

Although one in five children are judged to be living below the poverty line, adults also struggle. That is because those in low-paid work may be only marginally better off than unemployed people. Legislation to end the use of zero-hours contracts has helped this group, as has an increase in the minimum wage. Further support is needed, however, such as the introduction of refundable tax credits, as proposed by Social Justice Ireland.

The idea that one in five children are living below the poverty line in a country as wealthy as this is a staggering indictment of official policy. Many of those children live in inadequately heated homes, go without nutritious meals or are unable to afford new clothes. For those living in homeless accommodation, the effects of consistent poverty are compounded by social isolation and a disrupted education. In a State that had its priorities right, putting this right would be at the heart of everything the Government did.

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