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Main challenges to social inclusion
According to Poverty Focus Ireland 2020, an annual report by Social Justice Ireland, 199,234 children and young people under 18 years old lived in households experiencing poverty in 2018. Social Justice Ireland is a non-profit organisation, partly funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Scheme to Support National Organisations and Pobal (a not-for-profit company that manages programmes on behalf of the Irish Government and EU).
Child and youth homelessness
Child and youth homelessness is a key challenge to social inclusion in Ireland. The lead local authorities for homelessness in each region provide monthly reports on homelessness which identify the number of people utilising State-funded emergency accommodation on a regional and county basis. The number of 18- to 24-year-olds reported as experiencing homelessness between doubled between in April 2014 (440) and April 2018 (924), and fell to 749 in April 2020. This compares with 903 18- to 24-year-olds reported in April 2019, and 793 reported in April 2017.
These figures do not include ‘hidden homelessness’ among young people. For example, young people who are ‘sofa surfing’, living in squats, overcrowded accommodation, precarious situations, etc.
Young people living in Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres
Young people living in Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres is another key challenge to social inclusion in Ireland. Direct provision is a means of meeting the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers directly while their claims for refugee status, subsidiary protection or appeals for leave to remain are being processed in Ireland. Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres tend to be isolated, residents have to share rooms, and most do not have the facilities to cook for themselves or their families. In many Direct Provision centres meals are only served at set times. The Royal College of Psychists’ report on Children in direct provision found that a lack of funds, transport, strict mealtimes and a ban on visitors to Direct Provision centres can exclude Asylum seekers. For example, this can exclude children from afterschool activities and youths from further or third level educational opportunities.
In August 2019, according to the Irish Refugee Council, there were 1,647 children people living in Direct Provision. Two years is the average amount of time spent in Direct Provision.
Ireland uses a long-standing definition of poverty and social exclusion, which is set out in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020 – 2025 but originates in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, 1997:
‘People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society.’
The official Government approved poverty measure used in Ireland is consistent poverty. This measure was developed independently by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The measure identifies the proportion of people, from those with an income below a certain threshold (less than 60% of median income), who are deprived of two or more goods or services considered essential for a basic standard of living.
These goods or services include the following:
- Two pairs of strong shoes
- A warm waterproof overcoat
- Buy new not second-hand clothes
- Eat meals with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day
- Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
- Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
- Keep the home adequately warm
- Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
- Replace any worn out furniture
- Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
- Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight, for entertainment