Belfast Telegraph

More households at risk of poverty

The number of households at risk of poverty has risen to almost 16%, it has emerged.

Latest figures show another 6.2% were in consistent poverty in 2010 - no change from a year earlier.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed the gap between rich and poor grew over 2009 and 2010 - with the average income of high earners some 5.5 times that of those in the lowest income group. The ratio was 4.3 a year earlier.

However its survey on income and living conditions in Ireland found the threshold for identifying those at risk of poverty fell by more than 10% - from 12,064 euro in 2009 to 10,831 euro in 2010.

"Although there was a decrease in the at risk of poverty threshold of more than 10%, the at risk of poverty rate at state level rose from 14.1% in 2009 to 15.8% in 2010," said the CSO.

Fr Sean Healy, of Social Justice Ireland (SJI), said there was an alarming rise in the rates of child poverty. The CSO said children remained the most exposed age group living consistent poverty, a rate of 8.1%, while another one in five at risk of poverty compared to one in 10 of the elderly population.

"There is a real strong message to Government here," said Fr Healy. "It needs to take a serious look at what is actually happening in the decisions it is taking because it is quite clear that even though incomes are falling ... poor and vulnerable people are taking a disproportionate hit in the adjustments taking place."

The CSO found the numbers of working age (18 to 64) who were almost on the breadline had increased from 13% in 2009 to 15.3%.

Fr Healy also raised huge concerns over the working poor. "More than 706,000 people are at risk of poverty, up 92,000 over two years," he said. "The working poor make up 120,000 of the 706,000. These are people who are living in households with a job and are struggling to survive.

"It's extremely disappointing to see the percentage of people at risk of poverty has risen while the poverty line has fallen. That's totally unacceptable."

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