Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questions (91)

Mick Wallace


91. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will commit to child poverty proofing budget 2014 in view of the contents of a report (details supplied) from the Children's Rights Alliance; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11388/13]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The poverty reduction effect after social transfers demonstrates that the social protection system is protecting children at risk. From 2004 to 2010 (most recent data for children), the poverty reduction effect of social transfers for children’s at-risk-of-poverty rate increased from 43 per cent to 62 per cent. This reflects concerted State intervention and investment in the social protection system during this period.

Reducing and ultimately eliminating poverty is a fundamental aspiration of Irish society. The national social target for poverty reduction provides a key reference point for government policies and offers a tangible benchmark to measure social and economic progress. In recognition of the life-long consequences of child poverty and the damaging effects of intergenerational transmission of poverty, the Government has committed to setting a new sub-target for the reduction of child poverty. Discussions with Government Departments on setting the target are on-going and consultation with key stakeholders will also help to inform this process.

The sub-target for child poverty reduction will recognise that a multi-dimensional approach is needed to meet existing commitments and to take into account the importance of income supports, services and parental access to employment. Children in jobless households are three times more likely to experience consistent poverty than children generally. In 2011, almost three-quarters of all those living in consistent poverty lived in jobless households. Almost a quarter of all jobless households are living in consistent poverty. Over a fifth of all households in Ireland are jobless, twice the European average. The overriding objective for the Government is to increase employment, promote activation, skills training and education and thus build real and sustainable economic growth and to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society.

My Department provides a wide range of supports to families and their children through the social protection system. The importance of these supports is underlined by the fact that in 2013 my Department will spend over €2.8 billion on various child related payments. This accounts for around 14 per cent of expenditure on social protection of over €20 billion. The Child Benefit payment accounts for two-thirds of expenditure on child and family income supports as it is paid on a universal basis to approximately 609,000 families in respect of some 1.16 million children. However, it is important to note that my Department also provides child income support payments to low income families through additions to the main social welfare payments by way of qualified child increases (516,000 children), the Family Income Supplement (57,000 children) and through the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance (approx. 377,000 children). I and the Government are conscious that these payments are an important source of income for all families, particularly during a time of recession and unemployment. Furthermore, the Government is committed to tackling Ireland’s economic crisis in a way that is fair, balanced, and which recognises the need for social solidarity. In addressing all aspects of the public finance, it will seek to ensure that resources are allocated fairly and that less well-off families are protected in so far as possible.

This Department also works closely with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) in relation to these issues. Minister Fitzgerald is overseeing the new children and young people’s policy framework under which policy and services for children and young people will be developed and implemented in the State. Minister Fitzgerald is also overseeing a new area-based approach to child poverty, building on evidence and experiences in prevention and early intervention programmes supported by her Department and Atlantic Philanthropies. My Department prepares a Social Impact Assessment of the main taxation and welfare changes arising from annual Government Budgets. This includes an analysis of the distributive and poverty impacts of these changes on different family types including those with children.