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Foreword by An Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, T.D

Finding effective and sustainable ways to tackle poverty is not a simple challenge. The starting point has to be an appreciation of the fact that action must be taken on a number of different levels and has to be based on opening up opportunity for individuals and communities to participate in all aspects of economic and social life. Anti-poverty action has to involve more than traditional responses and must include, for example, creating a pro-employment environment, expanding access to highquality education and training and targeting investment towards key communities.

This idea lies at the heart of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy and the co-ordinated actions which have stemmed from it. When launched three years ago, the Strategy set a series of ambitious ten-year targets. These have already been met and exceeded. For example, the number of households experiencing consistent poverty has fallen from 10-15% to approximately 6-8%. In practical terms, this means that the number of people unable to afford an acceptable standard of living in areas such as food and clothing has been reduced very significantly. Key to this has been the success of efforts implemented under the National Employment Action Plan to expand employment opportunities, particularly for the long-term unemployed who had previously benefited little from economic growth. Unemployment has been reduced from 12% to 4.3% and long-term unemployment has been reduced from 7% to just 1.6%.

The reduction of consistent poverty has also been enhanced by the targeted use of secondary, non-cash benefits, particularly for groups such as the elderly. This provides an important perspective as we seek to understand the practical ways of tackling consistent poverty.

The Government is working on a number of levels to drive forward the social inclusion agenda. This report from the Inter-Departmental Policy Committee shows a wide variety of initiatives touching every aspect of Government. Quite a number of highly innovative policy responses such as the Integrated Services Process are being developed which have the potential to make a major difference.

The National Development Plan and Programme for Prosperity and Fairness provide the key building blocks for an inclusive Ireland. They also provide the background for the next stage of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy process. We have entered a period of review and consultation during which the revision of existing targets and inclusion of additional ones will be considered. It is clear, for example, that the target for the elimination of early school leaving needs to be reset to include a wider range of interventions and achievement. In addition, the NAPS process provides an effective way of dealing with other issues such as child poverty.

One of the core strengths of the Strategy is that it focuses attention on long-term solutions and moves debate away from short-term and reactive responses. Over the last three years we have, as this report shows, seen significant progress. I have no doubt that, with co-operation and commitment, this progress will continue.

Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D.

An Taoiseach

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

This Government is strongly committed to building an inclusive society - one where everybody feels they belong. The fruits of this commitment have been very marked

  • unemployment has dropped dramatically and we have, for the first time in our history, achieved a full employment society,
  • consistent poverty has almost been halved since 1996, and
  • we are now creating the conditions where people can achieve economic independence with the numbers of working age people dependent on welfare falling from one-infour of the population in 1997 to one-in-five today.

Although much has been achieved in recent years, we are not complacent about the challenging tasks ahead. Given the dramatic change in our economy and society we need to move to new approaches to building an inclusive society.

This year marks a new phase in the development of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy.

  • The Strategy will be strengthened and updated in consultation with the social partners
  • We will develop new approaches to social inclusion
  • Existing targets will be reviewed and revised
  • New targets will be considered in the areas of children's poverty, women's poverty, older people, health and housing/ accommodation
  • Emerging causes of poverty will be examined, particularly racism.

In addition, as part of our policy of local government reform, poverty proofing will be extended on a phased basis to a local level through local authorities and health boards and social inclusion units will be piloted in five local authorities.

I strongly believe that we can only build an inclusive society if all the social partners play a full role. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported the process to date. One of the key challenges in the next phase will be to establish mechanisms to further strengthen the involvement of the social partners in the Strategy.

Our people made the economic boom. We must ensure that we use the fruits of that boom to make this a good country for them all. We are at a vital stage in the development of the NAPS. This report shows what can be achieved. I look forward to working with all the social partners to ensure that we make this a country where everybody feels they belong.

Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D.

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs

Last modified:05/11/2008

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