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Sunday 21 January 2018

Low income families struggling to cover everyday needs – new report

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

LOW-income households are struggling to meet a basic standard of living.

A new report revealed people who rely on social welfare or the national minimum wage do not have enough money to cover everyday needs.

Co-author Sr Bernadette Mac Mahon, of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, said the study shines a light on the income that is needed for a minimum essential standard of living across a spectrum of household types.

"It demonstrates that many households in situations of reliance on social welfare or the national minimum wage live with an insufficient income," she said.

"Income inadequacy means many households live below a level which has been defined as socially acceptable by Irish society."

The year-long study by Trinity College's Policy Institute and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice was part funded by the Department of Social Protection.

It found the income of an urban household with two adults and two children who live on unemployment benefits is only sufficient when both youngsters are of pre-school age.

At all other stages income is inadequate and peaks at a weekly shortfall of €168 when one child is at second level and one is 19.

But for a single income family, the combination of the minimum wage and benefits is adequate until at least one child reaches the second level school age group.

Meanwhile the shortfall for a single, female pensioner can be as much as €105.

Sr Bernadette added: "Failure to ground the national minimum wage and social welfare transfers in a tangible measure of adequacy, such as defined in this research, means that poverty and social exclusion will continue to be a reality in Ireland."

The study - A Minimum Income Standard for Ireland - researched the weekly cost of living for a single person, a two parent household with two children, a single parent household with two children, a pensioner couple, and a female pensioner living alone.

It calculated the minimum income households need to afford a minimum standard of living, which is defined by the United Nations as one which meets a person's physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs.

Budgets based on needs, rather than wants, spanned over 2,000 goods and included 16 areas of expenditure like food, clothing, personal and health care, household goods and services, education and transport.

Dr Micheal Collins, former Assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity College, said the research would be a useful benchmark to assess the adequacy of current welfare payments and minimum wage and the challenges that low income working families face.

"Consequently, the results are of relevance to situations where households are working with MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service), the courts and banking institutions to manage debt issues," he added.

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