St Vincent de Paul receives 95,000 requests for help

By Aideen O'Flaherty

AN additional 149,000 people around the country were going without basics in 2019 compared to 2018, according to recently released figures by the CSO – leading to a surge in demand for assistance from poverty charity the Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP).

The charity has received almost 95,000 requests for help so far this year from struggling low-income individuals and families, and they are concerned that those households will be more likely to be exposed to an “economic shock” now compared to a decade ago.

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According to SVP, in 2019, 42.7 per cent of those living below the poverty line were experiencing enforced deprivation, which means going without basics such as nutritious food or adequate heat – this is compared to 29 per cent in 2008.

While there has been an increase in average incomes in recent years, the latest findings of the CSO’s Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) on poverty and deprivation show that one in seven of those living in rented accommodation were defined as living in consistent poverty.

It was also revealed that over a third of renters were going without basics – and SVP have said that housing costs have been one of the main drivers of financial hardship among low-income households in recent years.

Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice, said: “Child poverty must be tackled as it can negatively affect the entire life course of a child, limiting opportunities and making it more difficult   for them to realise their full emotional, educational social and economic potential. 

“While there was some progress between 2016 and 2017 with 25,000 children being lifted out of poverty, the latest figures see a reversal of the positive trend which is very concerning. 

“Now more than ever, with the pandemic disproportionately impacting low-income families, it is essential that child poverty is held as a political priority across government departments and throughout the political system.

 “Overall, these figures underline the need for government to set out a roadmap for the right kind of recovery following the pandemic, which allocates sufficient resources to tackle poverty 

and social exclusion as a priority.  

“Any plan for Ireland’s recovery must tackle the inequalities that are preventing our people from reaching their potential and which are storing up human, economic and social costs for the future.”

The charity is calling on the government to benchmark social welfare rates and the National Minimum Wage against the cost of a Minimum Essential Standard of Living, in recognition of the real costs being faced by households in Ireland.

They added that there is a need for much greater investment in housing, childcare, health, education and energy efficiency measures so that individuals and families are supported to find a way out of poverty.

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