Figures on poverty show the Celtic Tiger changed nothing
A TOTAL of 290,000 people in Ireland -- including one child in every 10 -- are living in consistent poverty.
The figures, contained in Combat Poverty Agency's annual report, were branded "shameful" last night as Social Affairs Minister Martin Cullen insisted progress had been made.
Consistent poverty is defined as living on a low income and being unable to afford one or more basic necessities -- such as adequate food, clothes or heating. And Ireland is ranked by the agency as 19th worst among 22 EU nations for consistent child poverty, using European measurements from 2001.
But "poverty" is ranked as living in a household receiving 60pc of median national income or less.
A more recent EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions, from last year found that "almost one in five people" in Ireland remained "at risk of poverty," while 7pc of the population was living in "consistent poverty," although it was not as publicly visible as before.
Yesterday's report says Ireland has a relatively low level of support with children, adding that while income supports may help to lift families at risk of poverty above the subsistence line, access to good quality public services is also required.
It stresses the importance of employment, education, health, housing, transport and childcare provision, saying many lone-parent families are caught in a poverty trap on all fronts.
"There are limited opportunities to gain employment or increase earnings because of a potential loss of benefits and the lack of subsidised childcare facilities," the report has indicated.
Kevin O'Kelly, acting director of the CPA warned of a hidden desperation, saying: "The extent and effects of poverty and inequality today are not as evident in visual terms as they were in the past, when dole queues and emigration were the defining images.
"Instead it is hidden," he said. "Often multiple factors such as poor physical or mental health, educational disadvantage, low self-esteem and limited access to quality services that distinguish rich from poor."
The worst affected, he said, might not be in a position to take up a job and these included, "older people, carers, lone parents, children, long-term unemployed and the sick or disabled."
"In a wealthy society like Ireland, access to high quality services should not be dependent on income," Mr O'Kelly said.
The figures show that throughout the Celtic Tiger years, the level of child poverty has remained virtually unchanged.
"There is a perception, thanks to the unprecedented wealth generated here in recent years, we have eliminated poverty in Ireland," said spokesman Willie Penrose TD.
"As we can see from the Combat Poverty Agency figures, nothing could be further from the truth."