Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Gabhaim buíochas leis na Teachtaí Crowe agus Carey. On behalf of the Government, I welcome the report to which the Deputies have referred, Towards an Anti-Poverty Strategy for Clare, which was published by the Clare PPN. Indeed, I welcome the representatives of the network who are here today. We know that the voice of lived experience is essential for good policy and good decision-making. Democracy is made stronger by allowing diverse views and interests to be considered as part of the decision-making process of local government. It is important that we hear from those groups who are socially excluded and whose voices may not be heard in our society. Therefore, this work of the Clare PPN is extremely important.
Addressing poverty continues to be a key priority for the Government. The Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 was published in January 2020. The primary ambition of the roadmap is to "reduce consistent poverty to 2% or less and to make Ireland one of the most socially inclusive countries in the EU." The roadmap translates this ambition into seven goals underpinned by 66 unique commitments that will help to deliver these goals. It is a whole-of-government strategy with a five-year timeframe and includes a mid-term review in 2022 to facilitate an evaluation of the impact of roadmap commitments. The social inclusion roadmap steering group, which monitors the implementation of the roadmap, has met seven times to date.
The most recent poverty data are from the 2021 survey on income and living conditions, which was published by the Central Statistics Office on 6 May 2022. There were welcome reductions in all three national rates for the key poverty indicators. Consistent poverty decreased from 4.7% to 4%, the at-risk-of-poverty rate decreased from 13.2% to 11.6% and the deprivation rate decreased from 14.3% to 13.8%. Notably, the statistics reflected the positive impact of Covid supports. Without the pandemic income supports, the at-risk-of-poverty rate would have been 19.9%.
While I am pleased to see these improvements across the key poverty indicators, I am keenly aware of the higher levels of poverty for certain groups, such as people with disabilities and lone parents. The continued implementation of commitments outlined in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 will contribute to a reduction in poverty. One of the issues that is apparent from the work undertaken by Clare PPN is the challenge presented by not having official statistics available at a local area level. In this regard, mechanisms such as the PPNs provide opportunities to listen to key issues at a local level. I am aware that the Department of Social Protection each year hosts a social inclusion forum, where representative groups and individuals from around the country highlight the key poverty-related issues from their own perspectives. In preparing for this forum, the Department contracts the European Anti-Poverty Network and Community Work Ireland to run regional workshops to ensure the lived experience of people from different backgrounds across the country is fed into the consideration and discussion at the social inclusion forum. These engagements and important contributions from the PPNs help to inform the Government's approach to tackling poverty.