Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Questions (609)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

609. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of children that will have to be taken out of poverty if the 2020 child poverty target is to be met in view of the latest Survey on Income and Living Conditions, SILC, data; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51305/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The most recent data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions 2018, published by the CSO in late November, shows that the consistent poverty rate for children in 2018 was 7.7%. This is a reduction on the 2017 figure of 8.8% and the rate is now at its lowest since 2008 when it was 6.3%. The 2018 at-risk-of-poverty rate for children was 15.9%, a reduction on the 2017 figure of 18.4% while the deprivation rate was 19.7%, down from 23.0% in 2017.

The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures) was published by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in 2014. It includes a target to reduce the number of children in consistent poverty by at least two-thirds of the 2011 level by 2020. In 2011, the consistent poverty rate for children was 9.3%, equating to roughly 107,000 children. By 2013, this had risen significantly to 12.7% (roughly 150,000 children). The 2018 consistent poverty rate for children of 7.7% equates to some 92,000 children. Therefore, meeting the 2020 target means lifting almost 55,000 children out of poverty by that date, which will be both a challenge and a priority.

Addressing child poverty was identified as a priority under the 'Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures' (BOBF) framework. In conjunction with the BOBF Advisory Council, my Department formed an ad hoc group with the objective of working with key officials from other relevant Government Departments and NGOs towards the adoption of a whole of government, multi-dimensional approach to tackling child poverty. The paper on a 'Whole of Government Approach to Tackling Child Poverty' was published by DEASP in October 2017. It emphasises the need for a combined approach to tackling child poverty levels in Ireland, involving both income supports and services. The value of this approach can be seen in the reduction in the child poverty figures over recent years.

Recent Budgets have introduced a number of measures that have had and will continue to have a direct and positive impact on child poverty. Across Budgets 2017 to 2020, the Government increased maximum weekly welfare payments by €15 per week with proportionate increases for qualified adult dependents; introduced a new qualified child rate for children over 12 years of age and increased weekly qualified child rates by €6.20 for children under 12 and €10.60 for those over-12. There were also increases in the income thresholds for the Working Family Payment, and increases in earnings disregards for One Parent Family and Jobseeker Transition payments.

It can take some time for the full impact of budgetary measures to reflected in data from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions. Given the continuing economic recovery and the measures introduced in recent Budgets, I expect to see the poverty data for 2019 and 2020, when they become available, to show further improvements over the 2018 outcomes. I will continue to work with my Government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions and by all families, households and individuals.