Poverty carries a huge cost for everyone in society warns St Vincent de Paul

By Aideen O'Flaherty

THE president of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has warned that poverty “carries a huge cost, not just for those directly affected, but for everyone in society”, following the publication of a new report.

The Hidden Cost of Poverty report found that dealing with the consequences of poverty costs the State an estimated €4.5 billion each year.

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The report was compiled by Dr Micheál Collins from UCD’s School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, where he examined topics including health care, education and training, housing, gardai, criminal justice and emergency services, and children and families.

Dr Collins said: “Year after year, poverty imposes substantial costs on all of Irish society.

“While these fall heaviest on those living on the lowest incomes in our society, this report highlights that there are substantial costs borne by all.

“Consequently, there are benefits for all associated with a coherent national strategy to address and successfully reduce poverty and its consequences.”

The report found that an estimated €1.2bn a year is spent on dealing with poor health outcomes associated with poverty, and a significant proportion of State spending is allocated to supporting people who can’t afford basics, through social assistance (€592.7m) and housing supports (€912.5m).

In terms of education, €549.7 million euro is spent every year dealing with the legacy effects of early experiences of child poverty, and on measures to prevent children now experiencing the longer-term impacts of educational disadvantage.

In dealing with the association between social and economic disadvantage, exclusion, marginalisation and crime, expenditure of €917.4m is spent in the justice system.

SVP’s national president, Kieran Stafford, said: “The individual costs of living on an inadequate income are wide ranging, and the experience of ongoing disadvantage takes a physical, psychological and social toll on the lives of too many children and adults, and the effects can be long lasting.

“The publication of this report is significant as it clearly shows that poverty carries a huge cost, not just for those directly affected, but for everyone in society.

“As well as the strong moral arguments for addressing poverty, we now have important evidence on the wider societal benefits of tackling it and not allowing it to persist.”

People seeking assistance can call SVP’s Dublin office on 01 855 0022 and they can direct you to your local office, while parish offices can also direct people to their local conference of SVP.

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