All sorts of ordinary people who were struggling on very low incomes in 2009 are now seeing their incomes fall further. And there may well be additional cuts and charges on the way.
The fall in the cost of living in 2009 did not lift these households out of poverty, and cuts in wages, working hours and welfare payments pushed them deeper in.
The cuts to community organisations, health services and education impact on these families and individual, but the cuts in their incomes represent a particular and real threat to their well being. It is to fight this threat that a wide range of community organisations, charities and trade unions have come together to form the ‘The Poor Can’t Pay’.
The campaign currently being run by IBEC, ISME and others to lower the Minimum Wage and pay rates agreed through Employment Rights Orders and Registered Employment Agreements has the potential to see the already low incomes of more than 600,000 people reduced.
Rising unemployment and a worrying trend towards greater casualisation of the work force in sectors such as hospitality and retail is pushing many individuals and families to breaking point.
In 2010, The Poor Can’t Pay is calling on Government to protect the incomes of those whose current income is near, on or below the Government’s own definition of income poverty.
There are 615,000 people, or 14% of the population, living in poverty, according to the Central Statistics Office. Almost 200,000 of them are children. 116,000 of them are in employment.
To live in poverty in 2010 means, among other things, to live on an annual income of €11,719 for a single person, €15,585 for a lone parent with one child, and €23,321 for a two parent family with two children.
This would amount to a weekly income of €224 for the single person; €298 for the lone parent with one child; and €521 for two parents with two children
The numbers of people living just above the poverty line is even greater. 25% of households in the country live on an income of €20,000 or less a year. More than 50% of households in the country live on an income of €40,000 or less a year.
Many of these households live close to the poverty line.
The impact of the cuts so far
Far from being protected, people on the lowest incomes have been amongst the hardest hit by the first phase of cutbacks. In 2010 household income of an unemployed couple with two children will drop by €13.60 from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income of €477 per week. This is €44 per week or 8% below the poverty line.
The household income of working lone parent with one child will drop by €17.70 from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income of €441 before childcare costs are taken into account and €291 after childcare. This is €7 per week or 2% below the poverty line.
The weekly income of newly unemployed single people aged between 22 and 24 will be €150 per week which is €75 or 33% below the poverty line. While this would increase to €196 is she or he participates in an approved training programme, assuming the training is appropriate and available, it would still be €28 or 12.5% below the poverty line.
Many people with disabilities will also see their income fall. The household income of a person claiming the blind pension will drop by €8 from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income €329 per week.
Older people, particularly the 50% solely dependent upon the state pension for their income, will also face increasing charges in the coming year. The return of medical cards, the introduction of prescription charges and the carbon tax all have the potential to impose real reductions in the spending power of the state pension.
The Poor Can’t Pay campaign, in advance of Budget 2010, argued that these households should not be made to pay for the bad decisions and practices of others. We argued that they could not afford reductions in wages or benefit levels.
The Government chose to ignore our arguments, and as demonstrated in our analysis of the impact of the budget, How The Poor Were Made To Pay, pushed already hard pressed individuals and families further into poverty and hardship.
The Poor Can’t Pay campaign is now deeply concerned that these same households will face further attacks on their low incomes in 2010.
We say The Poor Can’t Pay so Protect their Incomes - If you support this principle, join our campaign and make sure, this time, that the Government listen to our demands.