SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY, Dermot Ahern, T.D. Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs


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SOCIAL INCLUSION STRATEGY

Speech by Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D. Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs

at the launch of Second Annual Report of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy

Inter-Departmental Policy Committee 1999/2000

29 September, 2000

The National Anti-Poverty Strategy has been in place now for just over three years and it is striking to see the changes which have arisen in Irish society in that period. The latest data from the ESRI indicate that the number of people living in consistent poverty has almost been halved since the launch of the NAPS. Our unemployment rate, in particular the rate of long-term unemployment, has dropped dramatically and we have, for the first time in our history, achieved a full employment society.

The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion and institutional arrangements such as the Inter-Departmental Policy Committee provide a valuable means of co-ordinating cross-cutting social inclusion issues and developing and implementing key policies and processes.

Given the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, it is essential that measures be undertaken across all Government Departments to promote social inclusion. This report sets out the wide range of activities, which have taken place across all Departments aimed at tackling poverty. Points of particular note in the Report include:

  • the publication of the 1998 Living in Ireland Survey, which further reductions in the numbers in consistent poverty,
  • the introduction of the Minimum Wage which, along with recent tax and social welfare benefits, will benefit people on low incomes,
  • the continued implementation of labour market iniatives, which have contributed significantly to reductions in unemployment,
  • the publication of the White Paper on Adult Education,
  • the publication of the White Paper on Rural Development, and
  • recent childcare and equality initiatives.

The Inter-Departmental Policy Committee has a key role to play in the implementation of anti-poverty measures and I would like to thank them for their commitment to the continued development and implementation of the NAPS. I look forward to receiving their input into the next phase of the Strategy.

Today provides an opportunity to focus on the significant progress achieved to date and on what remains to be done. This year marks an important new phase in the development of the NAPS. The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provides a framework for us to develop new approaches to social exclusion and poverty and build on the progress made since the launch of the Strategy.

During the period of the Programme:

  • The Strategy will be strengthened and updated, in consultation with the social partners.
  • We will develop new approaches to social exclusion.
  • Existing targets will be review and revised, where appropriate.
  • New targets will be considered in the areas of childrens poverty, womens poverty, older people, health and housing/ accommodation.
  • Emerging causes of poverty will be examined, particularly racism.

The broadening out of the Strategy to a local level is one of its key objectives over the next few years. The roll out of the NAPS to Local Authorities gets to the very core of what we are trying to achieve. There is a need to allow communities develop particular responses to their own particular problems. The expansion of the role of Local Authorities in promoting social inclusion and the explicit role granted to City and County Development Boards in focusing on social inclusion in their strategies for economic, social and cultural development, will help ensure that our economic success reaches into the hearts of communities and ensure that this Governments commitment to building an inclusive society becomes a reality for all.

I believe that an important element of our approach to tackling poverty should involve listening to and involving those affected by poverty, so that they may share in the decisions, which shape their lives. As with the initial stage of the NAPS, the social partners will play a key role in the further development of the Strategy. One of the central challenges of the next phase of the NAPS will be to establish mechanisms to further strengthen the involvement of the social partners in the Strategy. The White Paper on a Framework for Supporting Voluntary Activity and for Developing the Relationship between the State and the Community and Voluntary Sector, which I launched earlier this month, will assist in providing a framework for this process.

Monitoring and evaluation are essential in maintaining the effectiveness and relevance of public policy. Recent assessments of the NAPS by the Combat Poverty Agency and the National Economic and Social Forum have provided us with a very good overview of the Strategy to date and will help future policy development in this area.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy is its contribution to providing a greater focus on poverty in public policy making and enabling the development of a more co-ordinated strategic approach to the issues of poverty and social exclusion. Central to the Strategy is the adoption of a system of poverty proofing, which requires policy makers to indicate the impact of significant policy decisions on groups in poverty, or at risk of falling into poverty. A review of the process is currently being carried out by the National Economic and Social Council and I look forward to receiving their report towards the end of the year. Following the review, the process will be extended on a phased basis to a local level through the Local Authorities and Health Boards.

This Government wants everybody to be able to contribute to the wealth of the nation and to share in the benefits of social and economic growth. Each of us has a role in ensuring that the elimination of poverty can become a practical reality. We intend to build on the achievements to date, to invest in social services and to continue to pursue policies aimed at building an inclusive society changing our society for the better.


Last modified:05/11/2008
 

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