24 January 2020, The Tablet

Thousands 'left behind' in poverty in Ireland

Thousands 'left behind' in poverty in Ireland

People walk by rough sleepers in a busy pre-Christmas Dublin's Temple Bar. On Saturday, December 21, 2019, in Dublin, Ireland.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto/PA Images

Ireland’s economy isn’t working for everyone and many are being left behind, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has warned, as it revealed that 700,000 people are living below the poverty line.

Ahead of the country’s general election on 8 February, the charity unveiled its "SVP Election 2020 Priorities" in which it calls on the next government to introduce a Poverty Reduction Act to ensure that consistent poverty is reduced to 2 per cent or less by 2025.

Dr Tricia Keilthy, SVP Head of Social Justice, said: “Enshrining commitments for poverty reduction into law would send a clear signal that the interests of those most marginalised in society are at the top of the national agenda.”

She said that with rising living costs, the housing crisis and a high number of people living on low incomes, the economy was leaving many behind.

Canada, Scotland and New Zealand have already introduced a Poverty Reduction Act.

The proposed Act would require the Government to set out an ambitious child poverty target; report on how each new budget will reduce poverty and how the government is progressing towards its targets and place poverty and equality proofing of Government policy on a statutory basis.

In its election document, the SVP highlighted four key areas which it wants all political parties and independent candidates to support, including education, income and transport and energy. The fourth priority is the housing and homeless crisis.

Kieran Stafford of the SVP said that whoever is elected as the next government must “commit to an ambitious building programme of social and affordable housing, led by the Local Authorities.”

Last year, the organisation received more than 150,000 requests for help. “Our 11,000 members continued to provide support to thousands of families and individuals in need including with essential household spend such as food, fuel, electricity and education,” he said.

He said in the SVP’s experience, the biggest driver of poverty in recent years is housing costs.

“At a fundamental level, it is impossible for anyone to find a route out of poverty if they do not have safe, decent and affordable housing.”

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