Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Questions (47)

John Brady

Question:

47. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the date for the publication of the new social inclusion strategy; if she has received the document; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50252/19]

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Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Employment)

Perhaps Deputy Quinlivan will forgo introducing Deputy Brady's question.

I will be brief. Deputy O'Dea made a comment about Sinn Féin MPs taking their salaries. As the Deputy would know, if he knew anything about the North, that is simply not the case. Maybe if his party had not abstained from the North for 100 years, he would be well aware of that.

I ask Deputy Quinlivan to address the question or I will dispense with it altogether.

I did not get a chance to raise this matter because the Deputy left the Chamber. The question relates to another overdue report which is nowhere to be seen despite the crisis we face in tackling poverty. Will the Minister give a specific date for publishing the new social inclusion strategy? I am happy for the Minister to send on that report.

I thank the Deputy for allowing me to put this on the record of the House. Our roadmap for social inclusion is far more than just another report. The use of that term says a lot about the Deputy's opinion. I intend to bring the social inclusion strategy to Cabinet for review at the earliest opportunity. I received a draft of our new social inclusion strategy only last week. It will have a whole-of-Government approach which recognises the shared responsibility across Government to achieve improved outcomes for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society who I am happy to represent and do my best to look after. The roadmap will state a clear ambition to achieve the long-held, but as yet unrealised, target of reducing consistent poverty to 2% or less. It also aspires to make Ireland one of the most socially inclusive states in the EU. It sets a number of specific targets to be achieved across various sectors of government and identifies commitments to be delivered by each Department with timelines for delivery.

The roadmap will reflect the most recent poverty data from the 2018 survey on income and living conditions, SILC, published by the CSO last week.

That data shows that the consistent poverty rate decreased to 5.6% in 2018, down from 6.7% in 2017. The percentage of the population experiencing deprivation also decreased significantly, falling to 15.1% from 18.8% in 2017. The percentage at risk of poverty rate decreased to 14% from 15.7% in 2017.

It is nice to know that the decisions we make in this House that impact some of the-----

In fairness to every Deputy and the Minister, could we have a little bit of silence please?

I was going to finish by saying that it is nice to know that the decisions we make collectively in this House to spend taxpayers' money on helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society are working.

I will allow a brief supplementary question.

The word "another" is, as the Minister knows, about the delay rather than the report. I am disappointed that she used the word as an attack. She told us the report would be published shortly. A report on the reduced number of jobseeker's payments has not been released. Perhaps she has a different definition of what "shortly" means. She might enlighten us about that.

In September she told us that the report had been finalised, yet we still have not seen it. We have a major crisis with poverty in this State, whether it is child or in work poverty, and it is not being tackled. More than 100,000 people at work in the State live in poverty. Work should be a route out of poverty for people in Ireland but it is not. Millions of euro are being spent on the working family payment to supplement poor wages rather than paying workers properly in the first place. A living wage would address some of that.

Some 1,185 people in the Minister's Department do not earn a living wage. We have failed to meet our targets when it comes to reducing child poverty. The Government's target of lifting 95,000 children out of poverty by 2020 will not be met and it seems as if there will not be a plan in place.

The Deputy obviously did not pay any attention to the CSO SILC reports released last week, perhaps because he does not like the direction that things are taking. He would be much happier if we had people who were genuinely living in persistent poverty, similar to what is happening in Northern Ireland. The SILC numbers show a reduction to 5.6% last week.

I restate my thanks to the Members of this House, in particular Fianna Fáil Members who have supported the Government's budgets for the past number of years. The direct, targeted impacts we have collectively introduced to help lone parents and children have resulted in the SILC figure of 5.6%. With respect, what we are doing is working. We have the lowest rate of unemployment across the EU at 4.8%.