ONE-in-six people in Ireland is now living in poverty, according to a new report by Social Justice Ireland. It also branded the social welfare system as "not fit for purpose", and said that having a job is not a guarantee that a person lives in a poverty-free household.
Up to 700,000 people are living in poverty, with 200,000 of of them children, according to the report which analyses the economic factors facing the Irish public and the current Government's policies.
Entitled Shaping Ireland's Future, the report says the Government and policy makers should acknowledge that Ireland has an ongoing poverty problem.
Director of Social Justice Ireland Fr Sean Healy said 40,200 Irish people left the country in the last year and blamed the austerity programme in contributing to Ireland's loss of young people.
Youth unemployment is now at 30pc and Fr Healy said the increase of long-term unemployment has been a major policy failure.
The report found that the poorest 10pc of households have an average disposable income of just €210 a week, compared to an average of €2,276 a week for the richest 10pc of households.
But it claims Ireland can increase its tax take but still remain a low-tax economy, recommending that the Government should move towards increasing the total tax take to 34.9pc of GDP by broadening the tax base. Third level fees and student loans based on salary after graduation, are also proposed in the report.
Meanwhile, city and county sheriffs have seized over €100m worth of goods or property from people in debt on foot of court orders in a two-year period, Department of Justice figures reveal. Revenue sheriffs issued 34,463 warrants with a return of €171.3m to the public purse last year.
Returns to the Department of Justice show transactions on debt from the Dublin city sheriff between October 2009 to September 2011 were €50m, while Dublin county sheriff returns between October 2009 and March 2011 were €27m.
Sheriffs sell the goods they seize and then pay the creditors.
Southern president of the St Vincent de Paul Brendan Dempsey has said he has seen teams of people coming to seize goods and questioned the method of debt collection.
"Nothing is protected from these people," he said. "We had a case where we went to the house in advance and took the cooker and beds and things the people needed and stored them, and when they were gone we brought them back again. This was a situation where the family had lost its business, we were feeding this family so if they took the furniture we would have to provide it," he added.