I can confirm to the Deputy that I have read the report in full.
The report in question, ‘Hungry bellies are not equal to full bellies: exploring inequality and deprivation in Ireland ’, published by Unite Ireland, considers recent commentary on income inequality, as well as exploring the difference between income inequality and economic inequality. It notes recent research on the topic, and reflects the experience of a number of voluntary groups working with people experiencing poverty and deprivation. This is a interesting report in the context of the work my Department is undertaking to address social inclusion under the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025.
This Roadmap for Social Inclusion which was published in January 2020, is the Government's strategy to address poverty and social inclusion in Ireland. It sets out the Government’s ambition to reduce consistent poverty to 2% or less by 2025 and to make Ireland one of the most socially inclusive states in the EU. The aim of the Roadmap is to achieve this ambitious target by delivering 66 commitments across Government Departments. In the context of the ‘Hungry bellies’ report, it is important to note that the Roadmap looks beyond income as the only measure of addressing exclusion or inequality. The Programme for Government includes a commitment for the implementation of the Roadmap. As Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion, I am the Chair of the Social Inclusion Roadmap Steering Group, which oversees the implementation of the Roadmap across Government and monitors its progress. This group met for the first time in November 2020 and is due to meet again on 30th March.
The Roadmap contains a range of targets based on data collected as part of the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), the official source of data on household and equivalised disposable income in Ireland, undertaken by the CSO. It provides a number of key national poverty indicators, including the ‘at risk of poverty rate’, the ‘consistent poverty rate’ and the ‘enforced deprivation rate’. The ‘Hungry Bellies ’ report refers to the most recent Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) data from 2019 which was published in late 2020. This data reflects income and living conditions in Ireland in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic. The SILC data for 2020, which will reflect the impact of Covid-19, is unlikely to be available until Q4 2021.
The 2019 SILC data showed that basic deprivation (which measures the percentage of the population experiencing enforced deprivation) had increased from 15.1% in 2018 to 17.8% in 2019. However the At-Risk-of-Poverty rate, which measures the percentage of the population experiencing relative income poverty, had fallen from 14.0% to 12.8% in the same period. The consistent poverty rate, which measures the percentage of the population who are both at risk of poverty and experiencing deprivation, decreased slightly to 5.5% in 2019, from the 2018 rate of 5.6%. Information on the Survey on Income and Living Conditions is available at:
It is reasonable to expect that the 2020 SILC data will reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions on household incomes. However this impact is likely to be lessened to some degree by the introduction by Government of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme. Research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), as part of their Budget Perspectives series in 2020, highlighted the importance of the social protection system for supporting those on low-incomes in general and the role of pandemic supports in ‘cushioning’ the impact of the unemployment shock related to the pandemic, with the drop in income resulting from pandemic-related unemployment softened by the pandemic income supports.
In addition, Budget 2021 included a range of targeted social welfare measures to assist low income families and households, including an increase in the weekly fuel allowance rate; increases to the qualified child rates for children under and over 12 years of age; an increase in the living alone allowance as well as increases to the weekly income threshold for the Working Family Payment and to the income disregard for the Disability Allowance. These measures will contribute to the ongoing support to low income households provided by the social protection system.
I thank the Deputy for her question and hope this clarifies the matter.