New research examines barriers to social inclusion in Ireland

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People living in urban areas are more likely to face barriers to social inclusion, according to new research published by the ESRI and Pobal. The study uses data from participants in the Department of Rural and Community Development’s Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), administered by Pobal, to examine who is most likely to experience at least one of five barriers to social inclusion. The barriers are (a) belonging to a jobless household, (b) being a lone parent, (c) having a disability, (d) being homeless or affected by housing exclusion and (e) belonging to an ethnic minority.

People in urban areas were more likely than their rural equivalents to report experiencing all barriers except having a disability. This was true even after accounting for other factors, suggesting that urban environments increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing barriers irrespective of the population density and deprivation level of an area.

The study found that across all SICAP clients, the most commonly reported barrier was belonging to a jobless household. 40 per cent of people in the study reported this barrier. Typically, less than 10 per cent of clients reported each of the other barriers.

People with low levels of educational attainment are more likely to face all five barriers. People educated to above Leaving Certificate level are 10 per cent less likely to belong to a jobless household, be a lone parent, or have a disability.

Compared to their Irish counterparts, EU nationals are less likely to report experiencing barriers. Non-EU nationals are more likely to report housing difficulties and disabilities.

The results of the research suggest that the distribution of, and drivers of, barriers to social inclusion are complex and that any public policy initiative aimed at reducing such barriers needs to be highly targeted to be effective.

Michael Ring T.D., Minister for Rural and Community Development, the Department with responsibility for SICAP said, “I am committed to the removal of any barriers to social inclusion, I want everybody, no matter what their circumstances to have a chance to grow and achieve in our society – SICAP, overseen by my Department, is really helping. SICAP 2018 – 2022 has learned from and improved upon the previous programme. It is now much more targeted and provides support to those who need it most in all corners of Ireland”.

Author of the report and ESRI Research Professor Seamus McGuinness commented, “The research makes use of a highly valuable administrative dataset to provide new insights into barriers to social inclusion in Ireland. Key findings of the study include the strong link between low levels of education and barriers to social inclusion and the higher risk that individuals living in urban locations have of experiencing all of the barriers considered within our study.”

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