It is fair to say that tackling poverty remains a fundamental aspiration of all of us, regardless of the Department we serve in. The programme for Government includes a firm commitment to develop a new integrated framework for social inclusion to tackle inequality and poverty. This will be a successor to the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion the Deputy has referred to, which ran from 2007 to 2016, and its 2015 to 2017 update, which was included in this year's analysis.
The Deputy is right to say that my Department has started preparations for the new four-year plan for the period from 2018 to 2021. Like its predecessor, the plan will have a whole-of-Government approach that aims to improve outcomes for the vulnerable and marginalised in Irish society, while recognising a shared responsibility across Government to implement actions to achieve the overall aims. The theme of the new plan is one of active inclusion, which will enable every citizen, notably the most disadvantaged, to fully participate in society, which includes having a job if that is what they want. The primary focus will be the reduction of the rate of consistent poverty, which in 2016 was 8.3%. This will be achieved through a three-pronged approach; by supporting incomes through as high a level of employment as possible and encouraging and assisting people to enter the workforce; by setting targets for the level of relevant welfare payments designed to reduce relative poverty among those who cannot work or cannot find work; and by improving access to quality services such as health, education, childcare, training, housing, community supports and all of the other activities that wrap around a person to enable him or her to have as good a quality of life as he or she can, in order to minimise deprivation for all groups, particularly those who are on relatively low incomes.
My Department reports on the progress of actions under the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion through our annual progress reports and the annual social inclusion monitor. The progress report for 2015-2016 is scheduled for publication before the summer, with the 2017 progress report due to be published by the end of this year. I will get it to Deputy Broughan as soon as I can. I want to get the 2017 data as quickly as I can, because there is no point in talking about 2015 or 2016 when the economy and the environment in Irish society have changed. I want to see what benefit that has provided to the most vulnerable in society so that I know what we collectively have to do to provide for a better quality of life in the 2019 budget.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The 2016 social inclusion monitor will be finalised by the end of May and will report on progress against a range of poverty targets based on data from the most recent EU survey on income and living conditions.
As part of the preparation for the annual budget process, the Department of Finance publishes the ex-ante social impact assessment of illustrative budgetary measures, including income tax, universal social charge, USC, and social welfare, prepared for the tax strategy group. In the run-up to the budget, my Department undertakes social impact assessments of the main proposed welfare and direct tax budgetary policies in order to estimate the likely distributive effects of these policies on household income. Shortly after the budget is agreed, my Department publishes the social impact assessment of the main welfare and tax measures which have been agreed.
In addition, in the months preceding the budget and immediately afterwards, there is extensive engagement at ministerial and departmental level with community and voluntary groups. This includes the pre-budget forum and post-budget briefing. This represents an important consultative dimension to the social impact assessment, which helps our understanding of the qualitative impact of policy.