Protecting the vulnerable: poverty and social exclusion in ireland as the economic crisis emerged
A frequent refrain during recent debates on welfare cuts has related to the need to “protect the vulnerable”. However, it is far from clear that a consensus exists on which individuals or groups are to be included under this heading with consequent lack of clarity for the policy implications of pursuing this goal. In this paper, operating with a conception of social exclusion that incorporates notions of dynamics and multidimensionality, we make use of EU-SILC 2008 data for Ireland to clarify the distinction between income poverty and economic vulnerability. We then proceed to consider the relationship between these outcomes and multiple deprivation, financial pressures and perception of recent and future economic prospects. Our analysis is then extended to compare patterns of risk for poverty and vulnerability in relation to key socio-economic groups. Finally, we will consider the relationship between poverty and vulnerability and scale and form of welfare dependence. Our analysis suggests that the vulnerable but non-poor group may need to be a key focus of attention for any conception of social policy as active rather than passive; as involving social investment rather than social assistance.
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