Belfast Telegraph

Sixth 'in poverty before recession'

About a sixth of households were in the poverty trap in the dying days of the economic boom, it has emerged.

Researchers found lone parent families were most vulnerable even before the recession took hold and now fear poverty rates will soar among people relying on benefits.

The study, by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), showed levels of poverty in Ireland dropped from 19% in 2004 to 16% in 2007.

Despite increases in child benefit payments and more parents working, a fifth of young children remained at risk of falling below the breadline - with 7% in consistent poverty.

The ESRI said child poverty was concentrated among lone parent families.

"In 2004, children in lone parent families accounted for 53% of children in consistent poverty, while in 2007, 65% of children in consistent poverty were in such families," it stated.

In a survey of 13,961 people in 5,600 households, the ESRI calculated that anyone earning less than 229 euro a week in 2007 - including those dependant on benefits - was income poor.

It found the "at risk of poverty rate" among pensioners was 16%, down from 27% in 2004, and in the working age population the rate was 15%, from 17%.

Older people living alone were twice as likely to fall below the threshold than those living with a partner.

While the unemployment rate was just 4.8% in 2007 when the report was completed, it has now soared to 13.8% with 466,923 people on the dole.

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