Date: Tue, 14 Nov 1995 09:11:40 -0800
Sender: News and Articles From and About Ireland <IRL-NEWS@RUTVM1.BITNET>
From: Tony Hurson <tony@BGA.COM>
Organization: NONE
Subject: Clergy deplore widening poverty gap—IT, 1995/11/14
To: Multiple recipients of list IRL-NEWS <IRL-NEWS@RUTVM1.BITNET>

Clergy deplore widening poverty gap

By Andy Pollak, The Irish Times, 14 November 1995

THE Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) has said that the 1995 Budget and the Programme for Competitiveness and Work have resulted in a dramatic widening of the gap between poor people and the better-off in Irish society.

In its annual socio-economic review, published today, CORI's Justice Commission says that at a time when the Irish economy is doing well and wealth is growing, one million people still live in poverty and social welfare (paying below poverty levels of payments) is now the only source of income for large numbers of people for long periods of their lives.

CORI, which represents about 15,000 priests, sisters and brothers, gives figures indicating that the poverty gap has widened substantially in 1995.

Its review calculates that while the single long-term unemployed person gained £78.27 a year from the Budget and the Programme for Competitiveness and Work (PCW) combined, the single person on a salary of £40,000 gained £688, a widening of the poverty gap by over £600.

Similarly, a long-term unemployed couple gained £125.23 a year, while a couple on £40,000 are better off by £907, a widening of the poverty gap by more than £780.

The changes in mortgage interest relief narrow the gap only slightly, with a single person losing up to £95 a year and a couple up to £190.

The result is that the major benefits of the 1995 Budget and the PCW have gone to middle- and upper-income earners, CORI concludes.

This has happened despite the vast amount of work done by Government in trying to adjust the current tax and social welfare systems so as to make them fairer.

It seems clear that no amount of fiddling around with the current system will produce a workable, viable model which would eliminate income poverty and do away with the enforced dependency to which unemployed people, in particular, are condemned as a condition of maintaining their entitlement to a below-poverty-line level of social welfare payment.

CORI proposes that a new framework should be adopted by the Government in its 1996 Budget and anti-poverty strategy based on CORI's own proposals.

These, says CORI, would introduce a full basic income payment for all children and people over 65; a substantial partial basic income payment for all other adults; a top-up payment for those who still fall below the poverty line; the elimination of all unemployment and poverty traps; the reduction of employers' payroll taxes by a quarter; the development of many new areas of meaningful work, and the reduction of the Exchequer borrowing requirement by over £500 million.

CORI also draws attention to an apparent £4 billion gap in the tax base as assessed by the Revenue Commissioners when compared to the more comprehensive Central Statistics Office data.

Serious work needs to be done to identify the missing £4 billion. The resistance of the Department of Finance to funding a study to locate the missing tax base frankly amazes us.