Monday 22 January 2018

Austerity measures hitting poorest families the hardest

Yet those who brought country to its knees are rewarded with 'golden handshakes', writes Sr Stanislaus Kennedy

As a country, we have moved, slowly and perhaps rather reluctantly, away from the conservative idea that the poor somehow deserve their poverty, towards a recognition that poverty is structural and can and should be eradicated -- a way of thinking that is based on a commitment to human rights.

Even during the boom years, there were still some families in this country where children went hungry to school. But there is no doubt that there were impressive improvements in social provision, much of it targeted specifically at one-parent and jobless families. The statistics for 'consistent' poverty -- the kind of grinding, multigenerational poverty from which it is almost impossible to escape without targeted help -- improved from a massive 15 per cent of the population in the late Nineties right down to a little over four per cent in 2007.

Improvements in social provision in this country came from a very low base, however. Ireland has never had the kind of welfare state that is taken for granted in most other northern European countries, and the undoubted improvements we have had in social payments need to be seen in the context of a deeply divided society with poor healthcare cover and an education system that is only nominally free.

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