17 May 2006

Group claims Ireland has worst EU poverty rate


16/05/2006 - 19:39:12

Ireland has the worst poverty rate in the EU, an anti poverty group claimed today.

Ambitious targets are needed to eradicate hardship and social exclusion by 2010, according to the Irish national network of the European Anti Poverty Network.

The group also claims measures used to calculate poverty are outdated and in need of a radical overhaul to reflect changes in Irish society since the 1990s.

EAPN Ireland chairman Joe Gallagher said ‘relative’ poverty in Ireland is measured by not being able to afford certain necessities, like a warm coat or heating at home, while in most other developed countries, it is found by the number falling below 60% of ‘mean’ earnings.

“By this measure, Ireland has the worst poverty rate in the EU,” he said.

The group told the Social and Family Affairs Oireachtas Committee that ambitious targets needed for the new National Action Plan for Inclusion (2006-08) had to be submitted to the European Commission by September.

Under guidelines, the State has to lay out steps to eradicate poverty and social exclusion by 2010, making it a priority.

They should include clearer budgets, policies and monitoring arrangements than in the past.

Mr Gallagher said the plan will be particularly significant because by next year, the Government must either achieve or revise the 10-year targets in the 1997 NAPS (National Anti Poverty Strategy) when its main target was to reduce ‘consistent’ poverty to 2%, or ideally eliminate it, by 2007.

Mr Gallagher, who said poverty was particularly high among older people, lone parents, and the unemployed added: “Ireland’s shortfalls in basic services for the poorest, like health, education and transport, has become a more active subject in public debate than in the past.

“Ireland has historically lagged behind many of our EU counter-parts in the quality of services available to those on low incomes.”

Targets proposed by the group include: an adequate income to eliminate consistent poverty; appropriate, quality employment; quality, accessible services; participation and good governance.

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