Written Answers. - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Deirdre Clune

Question:

121 Ms Clune asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the action he will take regarding the growing risk of poverty facing Irish women, particularly those living alone and in lone parent households; his views on the extent of this poverty; and the Government's policy in response to this issue. [20270/00]

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

775 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the action he will take regarding the growing risk of poverty facing Irish women, particularly those living alone and in lone parent households; his views on the extent of this poverty; and the Government's policy in response to this problem. [20307/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 775 together.

This Government is committed to ensuring that women can realise their full potential in Irish society. One of the main principles underlying the National Anti-Poverty Strategy is "the reduction of inequalities and in particular, addressing the gender dimensions of poverty" and a number of developments have taken place which aim,inter alia, to ease the burden on predominantly female-headed households.

The Government has already recognised that women living alone and lone parents face a higher risk of poverty than the population at large. A major review of the impact of supports for one-parent families has recently been completed which finds that, overall, the one parent family payment is fulfilling a valuable role in supporting lone parents. I am encouraged by the significant growth in the number of lone parents at work and I believe that this is the best route out of poverty. On foot of the proposals in the review, and following discussions with the relevant agencies, I will bring forward a range of measures to overcome the barriers to employment which currently exist.

I expect that the National Anti Poverty Strategy review will further assist in the development of policies which address the concerns of women living in poverty. Possible new targets will be considered as part of the review of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, in consultation with the social partners, under the themes of women's poverty, child poverty, health, older people and housing and accommodation. Working groups are currently being established to advance the review process which will be completed by the third quarter of 2001.

The introduction of poverty proofing across all Departments, which aims to assess significant policy proposals at design stage for their impact on the poor, is also a major step in this regard. Lone parents, older people, and single adult households are among the groups given particular attention in this process.

With regard to this Government's commitment in relation to old age pensions, substantial progress has been made in the last three budgets towards meeting our commitment to increase the old age contributory pension to £100 by 2002. This will be of very significant benefit to households headed by elderly women. In addition, phase one of the review of the qualifying conditions for the old age (contributory) and retirement pensions was launched on 27 August. This report explores the Action Programme for the Millennium commitment in relation to allowing women who take time off work for family reasons to qualify for pensions. Phase two of the review will consider pension cover for women in the home.