The measures taken by this and previous Governments ensure that social welfare payment rates in Ireland are among the highest in Europe and considerably higher than in the UK. Social transfers contribute very significantly to reducing poverty rates in Ireland.
According to the Central Statistics Office, in the absence of social transfers and pension income, the at-risk-of-poverty rate would be 41.4%. After social transfers, the rate is 12.8%. This is a poverty reduction effect of 68.5% for all social transfers and pensions, one of the highest in Europe.
The most recent data from the CSO's income and living conditions survey show poverty rates are falling and Ireland is one of the very few countries where the overall level of income is increasing and where income inequality is also falling.
Notwithstanding this progress, we should all acknowledge more can always be done, but what we do must be informed by the evidence. Towards this end, the Department funds a large body of research, including the work of the Vincentian Partnership, to develop and calculate the minimum essential standard of living. My officials work closely with Sr. Bernadette and her team and I find this work very useful in informing policy. The outputs from this research complement data produced from other analyses such as the survey on income and living conditions produced by the Central Statistics Office.
The Vincentian Partnership research provides an estimate of the income requirements of different family types in both urban and rural locations. It provides a comparison of welfare payments against these calculated requirements to identify what the Vincentian Partnership terms adequacy gaps. In 2020, the study concluded that pensioner couple households have no adequacy gaps but other households demonstrate gaps of various magnitudes.
The work of the Vincentian Partnership also highlights issues that may also be addressed with improvements in services. In this regard, improved services, such as the extension of GP-visit cards for children and the affordable childcare scheme, can result in significant reductions in the minimum income standards needed by households.