Dáil Éireann - Volume 525 - 09 November, 2000

Written Answers. - Anti-Poverty Strategy.

18. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if, in view of the recent report published by the national women's council, he will outline the steps he will take to deal with the large number of Irish women living in poverty. [25051/00]

[1246] 26. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he is concerned that official statistics available fail to show the level of poverty among women; if he will consider any measures to ensure that poverty among women is recorded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24940/00]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 26 together.

Out of Sight – The Hidden Poverty of Women, published recently by the National Women's Council, is a welcome initiative to ensure that the full extent of women's poverty can be identified and addressed.

Women are at a significant risk of poverty and some predominantly female groups, such as lone parents, are at a very high poverty risk. The Government is strongly committed to eliminating poverty for all our people, including women and children. One of the main principles underlying the national anti-poverty strategy is the reduction of inequalities and in particular, addressing the gender dimensions of poverty.

Women's poverty has been identified as a central issue for consideration in the review of the national anti-poverty strategy provided for in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. As part of the review, existing national anti-poverty strategy targets will be revised as appropriate and consideration will be given to possible new targets under the themes of women's poverty, child poverty, older people, health and housing and accommodation. Working groups are currently being established, with representation from the social partners, towards this end.

The programme also underlines the need to improve data and data collection systems for the monitoring and evaluation of poverty, including new studies to address the gender dimension of poverty. A meeting has taken place between representatives of the National Women's Council of Ireland and officials of my Department with a view to addressing the need for improved data for policy making and work is under way to ensure that groups who are currently not included in the poverty figures, such as Travellers and the homeless, are fully recorded.

This Government is taking a number of practical steps to address key issues of relevance to women. Earlier this year I launched a report on women's access to labour market opportunities. I recently launched a review of our one-parent family payment which sets out a range of measures to improve parent's income. Substantial progress has been made in the last three budgets towards meeting our commitment to increase the old age contributory pension to £100 by 2002. We are also introducing carer's leave and benefit, and investing £290 million in developing child-care to make work more family friendly. The Government is committed to improving the immediate financial position of women and to enhancing the [1247] possibility for women of all ages to achieve economic independence.