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The Pobal HP Deprivation Index is the main index used in Ireland and applied by several government departments, state and semi-state agencies, voluntary and non-governmental organisations. Its value derives from the way in which deprivation indices can be used to facilitate the development of evidence-based policies, leading to greater efficiency in service delivery.

Probably the most exciting development in the use of the HP Deprivation Index over the past decade has been the move from the descriptive mapping of social gradients to the development of formal Resource Allocation Models (RAMs). Originally developed for the distribution of funds by Pobal, the HP Deprivation Index is now used for formal RAMs across a number of area-based development programmes.

The second arena – and one which has contributed most to the refinement of the RAMs – is the Health arena. Recent developments have also seen the systematic application of RAMs in the Education and Transport arenas. The following sections briefly outline these developments.

Local Development


Pobal is an intermediary that works on behalf of the Irish Government to support communities and local agencies toward achieving policy goals in relation to social inclusion, reconciliation and equality. Pobal has been the principal sponsor of successive deprivation indices and maintains a dedicated section of its website to publish reports, data files and online mapping tools for the Pobal HP Deprivation Index. Pobal oversees the distribution of some €100m per annum to local communities with the aim of alleviating poverty and promoting social inclusion. The Pobal Resource Allocation Model (Pobal-RAM) is based on the HP Deprivation Index and has been in use for at least a decade.


Since its launch in 1991, LEADER has provided rural communities across the EU with the resources to enable local partners to actively engage and direct the local development of their area through a community-led approach to local development. The 2014-20 LEADER programme includes, for the first time, the explicit aim of “promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas”. The LEADER budget for the 2014-20 period is €250m. The LEADER Resource Allocation Model (LEADER-RAM) is based on a combination of the HP Deprivation Index and the CSO urban-rural classification.


Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) oversees the funding of the Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAG) which are supported under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The EMFF Resource Allocation Model (EMFF-RAM) provides an interactive tool for the spatial analysis of existing resource allocations, as well as providing a tool for deriving allocations based on specific objectives. The model is based on a combination of the HP Deprivation Index and the CSO urban-rural classification, and applied to a designated strip of coastal areas.


The Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development (RAPID) Programme was launched in 2001 in order to improve the quality of life and access to opportunities for communities in 25 designated disadvantaged urban areas. A year later, the second strand of the programme extended coverage to 20 provincial towns. Areas were designated using the HP Deprivation Index, supported by data relating to the location of significant local authority rented housing and of schools designated as disadvantaged by the Department of Education and Science. The Programme aims to target the resources available under the National Development Plan, and enables government departments and state agencies to achieve better co-ordination in the delivery of services.


As noted earlier, the most important advances in applications of the HP Deprivation Index over the past five years have occurred in the health arena.

Health Atlas Ireland

Health Atlas Ireland is an open source application jointly developed by the HSE Health Intelligence Unit and OpenApp, to bring health-related datasets, statistical tools and GIS together in a web environment to add value to existing health data. The application enables controlled access to maps, data and analyses for service planning and delivery, major incident response, epidemiology and research to improve the health of patients and the population. Health Atlas Ireland is built upon open source software, allowing it to capitalise on international expertise without incurring licence costs. The Pobal HP Deprivation Index is made fully available through Health Atlas Ireland and has come to be seen as a major tool for epidemiological research.

A major development over the past five years has been the development of the HSE Resource Analyser, a joint venture of HSE/HIU, Trutz Haase and OpenApp. Building on the Pobal-RAM, the Resource Analyser was originally conceived to facilitate the identification of the most disadvantaged areas for the systematic roll-out of Primary Health Care Areas. It has subsequently developed into a more general tool for the distribution of resources, with a potential relevance to the entire HSE budget of over €13bn per annum. 2017 has seen the first direct implementation of resource distributions based on the HSE Resource Analyser across the Community Health Office Areas (CHOs). The process – its scientific basis and resulting  transparency  has been very positively received and is deemed to become of increasing importance in the years ahead.


Another exciting new development in the institution of evidence-based policy-making is the decision by TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency, to implement a formal Resource Allocation Model across all of the agency’s activities. The TUSLA-RAM is built around the HP Deprivation Index and the Agency recently appointed external management consultants to oversee a change management programme which will ensure that the priorities identified as part of the RAM will be implemented throughout all functions and at all levels.


Local and Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Forces play a key role in assessing the extent and nature of the drug problem in their areas and coordinating action at local level, so that there is a targeted response to the drug problem in local communities. In July 2017, the Department of Health published the new National Drugs Strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery:  A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017 – 2025. The strategy includes a dedicated Chapter (8) to the strengthening of the performance of the strategy which builds on the consultant’s Performance Measurement Framework developed in advance of the Strategy.

The DATF Resource Allocation Model (DATF-RAM) is based on a combination of the HP Deprivation Index, an adjusted version of the CSO urban-rural classification and the percentage of households residing in local authority rented accommodation.

Healthy Ireland

Healthy Ireland is the national framework for action to improve the health and well-being of the people of Ireland. Its main focus is on prevention and keeping people healthier for longer. A significant component of the strategy is its emphasis on reducing health inequalities.

The HP Deprivation Index provides a means for understanding and tackling health inequalities, and has a key role to play when analysing the Healthy Ireland Survey data. A summary of current health inequalities using a quintile distribution of the HP Deprivation Index is provided by the recently-published analysis of the 2015 Irish Health Survey, carried out by the CSO.


Higher Education Access Route (HEAR)

The Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) is a college and university admissions scheme which offers places on reduced points and extra college support to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. HEAR has been set up by a number of colleges and universities as evidence shows that socio-economic disadvantage can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college. Scores from the Pobal HP Deprivation Index constitute one of the six criteria which are applied to assess whether a student is eligible to benefit from HEAR.

Designation of Schools under DEIS

Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the Action Plan for Educational Inclusion, was launched in May 2005 and remains the chief policy of the Department of Education and Skills (DES) to address educational disadvantage. The action plan focuses on addressing and prioritising the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities, from pre-school to second-level education (3 to 18 years).

DEIS relies on a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and an integrated School Support Programme (SSP). In the 2016/17 school year, 836 schools are included in the programme, comprising 646 primary schools (330 urban/town schools and 316 rural primary schools) and 190 second-level schools. The budget for DEIS is approximately €40m per annum.

Up to now, the designation of DEIS schools was carried out on the basis of a (subjective) report furnished by each school principal regarding the social backgrounds of their students. But this is now to change. During 2016, the DES has geocoded the complete Primary and Post-Primary Student Databases, comprising over 550,000 student addresses. By assigning a Pobal HP Deprivation Score to each of these records, it is now possible to derive an objective measure of the socio-economic composition of each school, allowing the DEIS designation to be placed on an objective footing.

The DES Social Inclusion Unit is currently working on the formula to be applied and verifying impacts in relation to academic achievement. This process will lead to the development of a formal Resource Allocation Model (DEIS-RAM) to allocate funds under the scheme in the near future.



 Rural Transport Programme

The Rural Transport Programme (RTP) emerged in 2007 from the Rural Transport Initiative (RTI) of 2002. The latter was a pilot project addressing unmet transport needs from a social inclusion and community-based perspective. The RTP was funded under the National Development Plan (2007-2013) with the aim of providing ‘a quality nationwide community-based public transport system in rural Ireland which responds to local needs’’. In April 2012, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport assigned responsibility for managing the Rural Transport Programme (RTP) to the National Transport Authority. The budget for the rural Transport Programme is approximately €14m per annum. Priorities under the Programme are identified by reference to the Pobal HP Deprivation Index and a Transport Accessibility Index specifically designed by the consultants for this purpose.

National Transport Authority

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has a statutory responsibility to ensure that it obtains maximum social benefit from the funding provided to the CIÉ Group companies, with which it holds direct award contracts for the discharge of public service obligations (PSO). To this end, NTA has begun to develop a framework for the evaluation of social benefits. The purpose of this framework is to give NTA a basis upon which it can approve or initiate changes to socially necessary services by providing the relevant information to support decision-making in marginal or doubtful cases. The Pobal HP Deprivation Index is an important ingredient in this process.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Transport Infrastructure Ireland is currently looking to use the Pobal HP Deprivation Index as part of their project appraisal process, specifically when examining the accessibility and social inclusion impacts of national road schemes.

Other Important Uses of the HP Deprivation Index


Optimising the Sampling Methodology for Household Surveys

In 2012, Haase and Pratschke were commissioned by the CSO to undertake a study to assess alternative sampling designs for CSO household surveys, such as the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), the annual Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) and Household Budget Survey (HBS), as well as considering the design of a potential future General Household Survey. The new design makes optimal use of the new Small Area geography of the 2011 Census of Population, and uses the Pobal HP Deprivation Index to maximise efficiency in the stratification of primary sampling units. The CSO has since applied the recommendations in the design of all of its key household surveys.


The consultants are currently engaging with the Department of Health and HSE Health Intelligence Unit with a view to optimising the sampling design of major health surveys such as Healthy Ireland and the NACDA/EMCDDA Drug Prevalence Survey.

The Residential Property Price Index

The Residential Property Price Index (RPPI) is designed to measure change in the average level of prices paid by households for residential properties sold in Ireland. The RPPI specifically excludes non-household purchases, non-market purchases and self-builds (i.e. where land is purchased separately). The index is mix-adjusted to allow for the fact that different types of property are sold in different months. The RPPI was developed during 2016 and now includes the HP Deprivation Index score as an important predictor of property values.

Local Property Tax

In 2013, the Revenue Commissioners developed a formal valuation model for calculating Local Property Tax.   One element of the resulting model links properties to publicly-available data sources such as the Census 2011 results at Small Area level and the Pobal HP Deprivation Index.


The above examples show how Census data, when used to calculate deprivation indices, have been used to enhance economic and social benefits in Ireland. The key purpose of deprivation indices is to combine multiple measures of social and economic conditions in a single indicator. Once they have achieved broad support and credibility, composite indicators of deprivation can be instrumental in building a political consensus regarding the location of areas of need and the importance of targeting resources towards these localities. The timeliness of 5-yearly censuses has contributed to the Irish approach to census-based deprivation models and maps, and has helped the Pobal HP Deprivation Index to achieve broad support and to find a particularly wide range of applications.

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