This third Annual Social Inclusion Report for 2009 and 2010 outlines the findings of a review of progress made during this period in implementing the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016.
During this period, Ireland found itself in the midst of a major economic recession, which resulted in increased levels of unemployment and a decrease in household incomes and living standards. Furthermore, the ability to finance public expenditure has significantly reduced the capacity of government programmes to address the programme goals as before. Therefore we have to consider new ways to achieve our aims.
Although this review has identified some progress in implementing this National Action Plan across a wide range of policy areas during the review period, evidence of the adverse impact of the economic downturn during this time has clearly emerged.
The challenge to maintain progress in meeting the goals and targets in the National Action Plan in the prevailing economic situation is considerable. This is borne out by the most recent Survey on Income and Living Statistics (SILC) for 2010, which shows a consistent poverty rate of 6.2% for 2010, up from 4.2% in 2008 and 5.5% in 2009. These increases and the results of this review highlight the need to restore economic growth and maintain public services to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
To this end, the Government has set the expansion of active labour market measures to promote employment growth as a priority in tackling the economic crisis, which would also serve to build real and sustainable economic growth.
In my own area of responsibility, social protection, the SILC returns indicate that social transfers continued to provide a vital safety net for those who lost jobs in 2009 and 2010. These statistics highlight that social transfers reduced the at-risk-of-poverty rate from 51% (before social transfers) to 16%, therefore showing a poverty reduction effect of 69% for those receiving welfare payments, state pensions, child benefits, etc. This clearly demonstrates the important stabilising role that social transfers play for the economy and in protecting people from the impact of the economic and fiscal downturn.
Joan Burton TD
Minister for Social Protection