Smart budgeting is about making policy and budgetary decisions that improve outcomes for children through efficient use of public resources. Early intervention and prevention is its foundation stone, and investing in children through ‘smart’ policy has a positive impact across the life cycle. Providing for children’s safety, health and education now will equip them to lead fulfilled lives as citizens, parents and workers later.
In the last year, the Alliance has worked with the Geary Institute to develop the concept of Smart Budgeting for children. By doing this we aim to use our combined experience and expertise to demonstrate the social and economic value of ‘smart’ policy and budgetary choices for children.
Smart Budgeting means taking policy and budgetary decisions for children that are:
- Efficient in their use of public resources
- Effective in their ability to improve outcomes for children
- Long-term in their view
- Based on evidence
During the boom years in Ireland, child poverty never fell below 6.3%. In 2008, after years of wealth, investment in education remained at 4.7% of GDP, still well below the OECD average of 5.7%. A 2008 UNICEF Report Card placed Ireland bottom of 25 OECD countries for its provision of early childhood education and care, while the OECD drew attention to its very low – 0.2% GDP – level of investment in the early years. Meanwhile, mental health services for children remain underdeveloped, with just 54 of the promised 99 child and adolescent mental health teams operational; and social work services are creaking under pressure. These facts and figures show that despite spending money (and plenty of it); Ireland was not spending money wisely. We no longer have that luxury. We now need to re-evaluate how we take policy and budgetary decisions.
As part of our smart budgeting work, we are currently looking at how much of the State’s annual budget is actually spent on children, looking at direct and indirect spending. This will help us put the case tot Government for smarter targeted investment strategies for delivering services to children.
We have developed a Budget factsheet designed to support Alliance member organisations in influencing the Budget process, as they work towards achieving better outcomes for children.
The Alliance researches and develops pre-budget submissions ahead of each Budget.
For Budget 2012, the Alliance has three key messages for Government:
- Be fair: ensure children’s rights are protected in Budget 2012 and consider the impact of all budgetary decisions on children.
- Be focused: make ending child poverty its goal, in the short and longer-term measures it introduces.
- Be flexible: one size does not fit all families. Build flexibility into the social welfare system so that it can support families to cope with their changing financial circumstances.
Budget 2012 should:
- Bring forward clear plans to move towards an integrated child income support payment, as outlined in the 2010 Value and Policy Review of Child Income Support and Associated Spending Measures report.
- Commit to strategic integration of the tax and welfare systems to support a move towards this new system of child income supports.
- Introduce an ambitious new target to eliminate child poverty, supported by a clear, well resourced plan.
- Allocate funds to the new area-based poverty initiatives committed to in the Programme for Government.
Until a new integrated child income support payment is introduced, the Minister must ensure that vulnerable children are protected from poverty by:
- Maintaining the Child Benefit Payment at its current level.
- Reforming the Family Income Supplement payment to better support families in work on low income.
- Maintaining the Qualified Child Increase at its current level.
- Protecting the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and ensuring on time payment to eligible families.
Over recent years, the Alliance has developed a comprehensive analysis of each Budget for its member organsiations. This document aims to give an overview of the Budget and its impact on children.
Each analysis provides commentary on the key issues as identified by the Alliance; provides detailed descriptions of the measures introduced by key departments and useful information – including extracts from the Alliance pre-Budget submission and the post Budget press statement.
This is a useful tool for anyone wishing to get to grips with the way the Budget affects children and their families.