Poverty costs Ireland around €4.5bn a year according to ‘The Hidden Cost of Poverty’, a recent report, commissioned by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

The report was written by Dr. Micheál Collins of the School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice in UCD. The €4.5bn per year figure was calculated through examining six broad areas of public policy and expenditure- health care, education and training, housing, families and children, certain welfare supports, and gardaí, criminal justice and emergency services.

The report outlines these six categories and illustrates the (estimated) cost these areas have on Irish society with the aim to highlight the effects this has on Ireland “as a result of past and current experiences with poverty”. €549.7m is spent every year on education and training. Another €917.4m is spent annually within the justice system- garda, courts and prisons, crime preventions and inclusions and fire and emergency services. In housing, €912.5m is spent annually between housing investment and current housing. These statistics are based on data from the Central Statistics office and numerous government departments and agencies. It has also been outlined in the report that the highest estimate of the cost of poverty reaches €7,245 million while the lowest is €3077 million.

According to the study, one in every seven people in Ireland live with an income below the poverty line- the 60% median- with around a quarter of those living in poverty being children.

Dr. Micheál Collins has opined that the “individual costs of living on an inadequate income are wide-ranging” and goes on to briefly mention some ways the disadvantage can affect children and adults. Mr Kieran Stafford, the SVP national president, asserted that living in poverty was a reality for some 700,000 people in Ireland.

As stated in the report, the existence of poverty in Ireland is impacting everyone and not just those below the national poverty line. Dr Collins noted that while there are “substantial costs borne by all” as a result of poverty, it does “fall heaviest on those living on the lowest incomes in our society”.

Ireland was an international leader in the adoption of national anti-poverty strategies for many years, but the results of the report show that this focus has shifted. Dr Collins said that there “important evidence on the wider societal benefits” in tackling the problem, as offered in the report. It is stated in the report that there is potential “for a new suite of public policies focused on addressing and reducing the current experiences of poverty”.

Casey Conway – Reporter

Image Credit: ‘Hidden Cost of Poverty’ Report