2.5 Poverty, Social Exclusion and Area-based Deprivation
Poverty, social exclusion and social inequality are key inter-related issues that must be addressed in the interest of fairness and societal cohesion.
Poverty and Social Exclusion
The concept of social inclusion means having sufficient income, having access to services and participation in society. Based on the definition used in Ireland’s Roadmap to Social Inclusion “Social inclusion is achieved when people have access to sufficient income, resources and services to enable them to play an active part in their communities and participate in activities that are considered the norm for people in society generally”.
Living standards of people in Ireland have improved significantly. However, a certain percentage of households / people live in poverty and social deprivation. In the state in 2021, 11.6% of households were at risk of poverty, meaning that their income was at or below the poverty threshold of 60% of median disposable income. Under another measure of poverty – enforced deprivation - the rate in 2021 in the state was 13.8%. Enforced deprivation is a measure of households unable to afford two or more basic items considered the norm for society. Using the third measure of poverty - the consistent poverty rate – the percentage of households that are both at risk of poverty and in enforced deprivation – was at 4% in 2021.
Based on household surveys of income and living conditions, we know the characteristics of households that are most at risk of poverty and deprivation. People unable to work due to illness or disability have highest poverty rates under all three measures (e.g., 39.1% are at risk of poverty, at the threshold of 60% or less of median disposable income), followed by unemployed people. Disability or illness can relate to mental health as well as incapacity due to addiction / substance misuse. Households headed by people with lowest education, households with adults living alone and in one parent households with young children, people in rented housing (particularly local authority-rented and on rent-support schemes) and in households where no adult is working or only one adult is at work have highest poverty rates across all three measures. Travellers and persons coming out of or in Direct Provision / International Protection system are also at high risk of poverty and deprivation. Rural areas have higher rates of at risk of poverty (based on 60% or less median disposable income) but lower rates of enforced deprivation and consistent poverty compared with urban areas. Isolation, lack of transport, unemployment /under-employment and poor access to services are characteristics of rural deprivation.
Local data for Limerick show that we have relatively large numbers, particularly in the city, that are not in work (due to unemployment, inability to work due to illness / disability or otherwise inactive). In 2016, 15% of the population of Limerick City and County have a disability. There are also significant numbers with low education (16,938 adults across the city and county with primary only or no formal education in 2016) and lone parent households with young children. Just over 15% of all households in Limerick City and County were lone parent households with at least one child under 15 years (2016). In 2022, between local authority housing stock and rent subsidy scheme for households in housing need on low means, there were some 9,200 households in social housing provision.
The social welfare system is very important in addressing income poverty. If all social welfare income transfers were excluded from income, the risk of poverty rate (60% median disposable income or below) in 2021 would have been 38.6% compared with a rate of 11.6% with social welfare transfers (e.g., unemployment and disability benefits, pension, family and child allowances etc.).
The Pobal Relative Deprivation Index shows that Limerick City has a strong pattern of social inequality. Large numbers of people live in areas of social and economic deprivation. There are greater extremes of social inequality in the city compared with the former County Limerick.
Some 34% (20,047) of the population of the former Limerick City Council area live in neighbourhoods that are classified as extremely disadvantaged / very disadvantaged / disadvantaged while over 2,200 persons (4%) live in affluent areas under the HP/Pobal Relative Deprivation Index (2016). The regeneration areas of the city – Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St. Mary’s Park – have highest deprivation levels. Adjacent to them are other very disadvantaged or disadvantaged neighbourhoods, mostly areas of older social housing stock and traditional working class communities. St. Mary’s Park, in the core of the city, is the most disadvantaged small area in the state with a male unemployment rate of 70% and only 2% with any third level qualification (2016).
Map: HP / Pobal Relative Deprivation Limerick City (2016)
The suburbs of the city present a different picture. They are generally classified Above Average under the Pobal Relative Deprivation Index and some neighbourhoods are affluent (e.g., Castletroy / Monaleen).
In the former County Limerick (all parts outside of the city), 78% of the population live in areas that are classified as just above or just below average and 9% live in areas classified as disadvantaged through to extremely disadvantaged (based on the Small Area unit of analysis). At the same time, relative deprivation in rural Limerick is found in parts of the core of the towns such as Rathkeale (parts of which are extremely disadvantaged), Askeaton, Abbeyfeale and parts of Newcastle West in the west, in Bruff, Croom and Cappamore in the east and Patrickswell and Castleconnell within the Metropolitan Area.
The west Limerick towns show stronger concentrations of relative deprivation, and Rathkeale, with concentrations of Traveller households, is the most disadvantaged of all county towns. Abbeyfeale and Askeaton also contain Small Areas with concentrations of populations that are very / extremely disadvantaged. Newcastle West – the largest town – has Small Areas of relative deprivation. However, it is generally more mixed and includes a Small Area of relative affluence.
Map: HP/Pobal Relative Affluence and Deprivation Index Limerick County (2016)
The dispersed population base of rural Limerick means that many people who are disadvantaged are not “picked up” in an area-based measure, which requires clustering of people with characteristics of disadvantage into certain areas such as social housing estates in towns and villages. The area-based approach to identifying deprivation works better in urban settings.