Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has raised concerns about the effectiveness of social welfare supports available to families and households, in response to newly-released data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
Released last week, the CSO’s annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) is the official source of data on household and individual income, and it provides a number of key national poverty indicators.
The SILC showed the ‘at risk of poverty’ rate was 11.6% in 2021, showing a reduction from 13.2% in 2020. It is notable that, without COVID-19 income supports, the ‘at risk of poverty’ rate would have been 19.9%.
While there is a modest reduction in at risk and enforced deprivation rates in 2021, the SILC results show the need for effective Social Protection measures which support all types of families and workers.
Speaking about the results, Teachta Kerrane said:
“Any reduction in poverty rates is very welcome, and we should be seeing consistent reduction in these rates year on year.
“However, these reductions are not enough and there must be adequate supports for households that experience higher levels of poverty.
“In particular, we see that lone parent households continue to have much higher rates of poverty than households with two adults or more.
“In 2021, the at risk of poverty rate for persons living in one adult households with children was 22.8% – that is double the national average. The deprivation rate in lone parent families also increased between 2020 and 2021 and now stands at 44.9%.
“In the Programme for Government, the Government have committed to implementing anti-poverty measures for lone parents. Yet, we still see nothing from them regarding overdue reforms to the Child Maintenance system despite the fact that when paid, research shows maintenance can play a role in lifting children out of poverty. I again call on Minister Humphreys to publish the long-awaited report from the Child Maintenance Review Group.
“We also see some of the effects of the cost of living crisis represented in these SILC results, with 42% of households saying they had difficulty in making ends meet in 2021.
“This has only worsened in the first half of this year and we are seeing families and workers everywhere facing real challenges with the soaring cost of fuel, home heating, rents and child care costs.
“It is clear from the SILC results that we need a Social Protection system which responds when families and workers need it.
“Sinn Féin have put together a cost of living package which would make sure households can access key supports at this difficult time. The SILC data further underlines the need for these targeted measures to prevent households experiencing poverty over the coming year.
“If the Government are serious about tackling poverty, they need to look to providing social welfare supports which actually protect those who rely on it from poverty – a very basic that any Social Protection system should guarantee. Ours does not. This leaves Disabled People, Lone Parents, Carers, Jobseekers and many others receiving an income that is set below the poverty line.
“I have repeatedly called on Minister Humphreys to ensure core Social Protection payments are based on a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL). This is something Government should commit to moving towards rather than social welfare recipients being left at the whim of Government every year at Budget time.”