New poverty figures show that government is prioritizing the needs of the vulnerable during economic crisis

Minister of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, T.D. welcomed the publication today (25/11/10) of the 2009 Survey on Income and Living Conditions by the Central Statistics Office. The Minister said that these results are the first indication of the impact of the economic crisis on living standards. ‘The figures show that government policy is protecting those vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion during very difficult economic conditions’.

The Minister highlighted the CSO finding that in 2009 social transfers reduced the at-risk-of poverty rate from 46.2% (before social transfers) to 14.1%, a ‘poverty reduction effect’ of 70%.

Minister Carey said “Our social welfare system is an automatic stabiliser for people in economic difficulties, especially as unemployment increased from 4.8% in December 2007 to 13.1% in December 2009. In 2009, almost €20 billion was spent on social welfare payments, benefiting over one and a half million people. The Minister went on to say that this substantial government investment in recent years has resulted in a reduction in the at-risk-of poverty rate from 14.4% in 2008 to 14.1% in 2009.

‘The measures required to restore fiscal stability while increasing growth and competitiveness will be painful for all sectors of society but as is clear from the Plan for National Recovery 2011-2014, protecting the vulnerable remains our priority.’

The Minister said the while the rise in consistent poverty from 4.2% in 2008 to 5.5% in 2009 (back to 2007 levels) was a cause for concern, the Government is committed to ensuring that priority is given to those most in need. ‘Despite the difficult economic and fiscal circumstances, the Government remains committed to building a socially inclusive and fair society. The challenge now is to restore economic growth, maximise employment and prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable, so that the progress made in tackling poverty in recent years is continued. ”

Minister Carey also highlighted the significant reduction in the persistence of poverty (the percentage of the population in 2009 who were at-risk-of-poverty for two out of the three preceding years). ‘This shows that Government policy is helping to break the cycle of poverty. I also welcome Ireland’s improved poverty performance in a European context.’