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One-in-10 went without heat

ONE in 10 people went without heating at some stage this year, official figures revealed today.

Poverty levels have now hit a critical stage as 20pc are classified as being in a level of "deprivation".

The shocking figures reveal that families with young children and the elderly were most affected - a stark warning ahead of Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s Budget cutbacks to be announced next week.

The CSO report shows that almost one in five children were classified to be at risk of poverty in 2010 - with 30pc at a level of deprivation.Many individuals are already at the "tipping point", unable to replace worn out furniture, afford an evening out or even have friends over for a drink or a meal, according to the CSO.

The study shows that Irish people now have an average disposable income of €22,168 – a significant drop of 5pc on the 2009 figure.The statistics unveiled show an increase in income inequality between this year and last, the Central Statistics Office statistics have shown.

And there are fears that even more are on the brink of falling into the poverty trap as those who are at risk of poverty rate at a State level rose from 14.1pc in 2009 to 15.8pc in 2010.

Representative for Focus Ireland, Roughan Mac Namara, said the figures are a stark snapshot of the level of poverty in Ireland. "It's highly worrying that the figures are showing the gap between the rich and the poor has grown wider than ever," he said.

"There are more people at the bottom – there has been a sharp increase in the level of deprivation.

"And it's important to point out that the most marginalised people – the 5,000 who are homeless – wouldn't even be included in this survey, as it is a household budget survey.

Mr Mac Namara said that the current Government must make sure their actions in the Budget protect the vulnerable. "This should be a real warning sign that they need to rethink cuts to child benefit, how the property tax will affect people, and that the VAT will hit people in poverty the most.

"The books need to be balanced in a more equitable way so that they don't impact on the most marginalised."

The CSO outlined that social welfare payments are the only source of income that is keeping a significant number out of poverty."In 2010 if all social transfers were excluded from income, the at risk of poverty rate would be 51pc, indicating a steady increase from 39.8pc in 2004," the CSO said.

"This increase over time demonstrates the increasing dependence of individuals on social transfers to remain above the at risk of poverty threshold."

Also, 10pc of our elderly population are now at risk of poverty. Separately it was revealed that unemployment levels are climbing again. Some 14.5pc of the population are signing up for social welfare benefits in the month of November, an increase from 14.4pc in October.

The CSO statistics show: l20pc of the population did not have the cash to replace worn out furniture; a total of 2.9pc could not afford two pairs of good shoes; 5pc of individuals were unable to afford a roast once a week; another one in five said that they could not afford an afternoon or evening out; some 14pc admitted to being unable to invite friends or family over for a meal or a drink; a significant 10pc were unable to afford heating at some stage; the average disposable income in the State is now at €22,168