It is unacceptable that as the fifth richest country in the world, Ireland still has over 16% of its population (780,000 people) living below the poverty line. Below is the Society's Pre-Budget Submission 2019 "Paving a Pathway Out of Poverty". In the submission we have covered five key areas for the Government to prioritise.
Ireland remains in the grip of a housing and homelessness crisis. Almost 10,000 people are currently homeless, and nearly 86,000 households are on the social housing waiting list. A reassessment of the Government’s housing policy is needed, prioritising the scale-up of the delivery of social and affordable housing, enhancing prevention supports to enable people to remain in their homes, and with the ultimate aim of ensuring that everyone has the right to an affordable, secure and adequate home.
Education is the best route out of poverty, but underinvestment in our education services means many children, young people and second chances learner continue to be locked out. Budget 2019 must invest in education services and supports across the life cycle. This means enhancing early years supports and services, tackling school costs and breaking down barriers to further education.
Social welfare schemes are the last resort for people in difficult circumstances. Currently, most social welfare rates are below the poverty line and well below what many households need to afford a socially accepted standard of living. Social welfare should be benchmarked, so that is sufficient to lift people out of poverty and provide them with a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.
Uncontrollable related costs of the average electricity bill now account for between 37-39%. In the past five years, the Public Service Obligation levy alone has increased by 231%. These costs disproportionately hit low income and energy poor households. Alongside improved income supports, including future-proofing support and enhancing assurance for vulnerable customers, much greater investment in energy efficiency measures are also needed, particularly for those in the private rented sector.
Poor health is inextricably linked to poverty. People living in disadvantaged areas are more likely to have poorer health and to die younger. Our health care system exacerbates these inequalities, and that’s why improved access to primary and secondary care for low-income households is required.