Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Claire Kerrane TD, has called for greater measures to tackle growing levels of poverty in the State.
The call comes in response to the EAPN’s Report on Poverty which was launched today, coinciding with International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The report echoes findings from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), and states that the ‘at risk of poverty’ rate was 11.6% in 2021, with over 581,000 people living below the poverty line.
In addition, the report outlines poverty-related issues faced by a range of groups in the State as a result of soaring living costs, the housing crisis, rising energy costs and income inadequacy.
Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:
“The EAPN’s report sets out the stark reality of poverty and inequality in the State.
“That over half a million people in the State are living below the poverty line is unacceptable.
“While there was a modest reduction in at risk and enforced deprivation rates in 2021, these reductions are not enough and we should be seeing consistent reduction in these rates year on year.
“We know already that 42% of households reported struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of living crisis, which emphasises that families and workers need accessible and adequate supports to prevent more households falling into poverty.
“As well as this, one parent families, people with disability or longer-term illnesses and lower-income households are at a higher risk of poverty and deprivation, which simply should not be the case.
“The report rightly points to failures in implementing preventative measures that address the underlying structural causes of poverty.
“If the Government is 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 and Government are showing no signs of implementing evidence based increases in social welfare rates at Budget time.
“For example, the €12 weekly increase to core social welfare rates announced in Budget 2023 is inadequate and adds little to an already inadequate social protection system.
“These increases to weekly social welfare rates will not go far enough to protect the most vulnerable in our society when they are eventually introduced in January.
“Sinn Féin wants to reform our Social Protection system by ensuring that all social welfare rates are adequate and protect those who rely on them from poverty.
“We have called on the Government to move towards Social Protection payments which are based on a Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL).
“This is something Government should commit to, rather than social welfare recipients being left at the whim of Government every year at Budget time.
“Social welfare increases should be evidence based and informed by research and expertise.
“Sinn Féin would establish a Social Welfare Adequacy Commission to research and make recommendations to Government annually ahead of the Budget, to ensure social welfare rates are adequate by providing a minimum essential standard of living and protection from poverty.
“We also want to see and have long campaigned for the establishment of a Child Maintenance Service, and have pushed for the Government to publish the long-awaited report from the Child Maintenance Review Group.
“Research shows that, when paid, maintenance can play a role in lifting children out of poverty.
“Similarly, we have called for the introduction of a Cost of Disability payment, to recognise the additional costs faced by people with disabilities within the social welfare system.
“While today marks the annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the reality is that poverty is an everyday experience for so many people in the State.
“This must be tackled and it should be an urgent priority for Government.”