Wednesday, 10 March 2004

Ceisteanna (75)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

131 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if persistent poverty rates are a useful indicator and should be included in comparison reports produced by her Department. [7929/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Family)

The persistent at risk of poverty rate is one of the common indicators of poverty and social exclusion endorsed at EU level. It will be reported on in the forthcoming joint report on social inclusion that will be presented to the spring European Council at the end of the month. It is defined as the share of persons falling below the at risk of poverty threshold, 60% of equalised median income, in the current year and in at least two of the preceding three years. The longer people are at an income level that puts them at risk of poverty, the greater the likelihood that they will experience basic poverty and deprivation. This indicator helps to identify the overall proportion of people suffering like this and is broken down by age group and gender.

The current tables show that 13% of people here were classified as being in persistent poverty in 2001. The data is broken down in age group only. It shows that by far the highest proportion of people in the category are over 65 years of age, of whom the highest proportion are women. This data may, in part, demonstrate that social insurance was progressively extended to all workers in recent years. Up to one third of social welfare pensioners in 2001 received old age pensions under means tested social assistance and up to 60% or 50,000 were women. A further 14,000 received widowed persons' pensions under social assistance. The Government gave a commitment to significantly increase pension rates for older people and hopes to reach the target of €200 per week by 2007.

The persistent poverty indicator only takes account of income, not the value of home ownership. Compared to international standards a high proportion of people here, especially older people, are in the enviable position of being homeowners. Therefore, overall standards of living are higher than the indicator suggests.

To arrive at the proportion experiencing basic poverty and deprivation Ireland's national anti-poverty strategy employs an indicator that measures consistent poverty. It identifies the proportion of people with less than 60% of equalised median income who are also experiencing basic deprivation of goods and services regarded as essential for a basic standard of living in Ireland.

The success of Government policies in tackling consistent poverty is reflected in the sharp decreases observed in recent years. The problem has been reduced from 15% in 1994 to 5.2% in 2001.