A homeless person sleeping rough in Temple Bar in November 2015
In forming a government, unlike Lanigan’s Ball, it is less important who is stepping in and out again and more important what policies they agree on. All of the parties to the current dance have explained, during the election, that their priority is to “protect the most vulnerable”, but now we need to turn this into detailed multi-annual policies to reduce poverty.
The first step is to recognise the shocking scale of the problem. The CSO has found that, between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of our people experiencing “deprivation” nearly trebled to 29 per cent. This means being unable to afford two from a list of items like heating your home or eating a substantial meal every second day, a very basic measure in the 21st century.
More than a third of children and one in five of people at work were classified as experiencing deprivation, while the picture is worse for groups like Travellers, lone parents, the long-term unemployed and the homeless.
For decades we have danced around in the same pattern. In boom times, people in poverty are left behind, while in more austere times the same groups suffer the most. Breaking this cycle will need a long-term commitment to policies and investments to provide adequate income, quality work and services, funded by sufficient and fair taxation.
There has been plenty of research and experience to show what makes the difference between a country with high and low levels of poverty. Nearly 20 years ago, the all-party National Anti Poverty Strategy pointed to most of the instruments needed. However, strategies alone don’t change the world; we need solid commitments in the programme for government to end the dance of poverty and despair.
Upper Ormond Quay,
Tackling poverty (Irish Times letter)