Friday 9 October 2009: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin TD, will today (9 October) be told to reverse the education cuts and save the Child Benefit payment by the Children’s Rights Alliance in a Pre-Budget Forum, at Dublin’s St Andrew’s Resource Centre. The Alliance, a coalition of over 90 NGOs campaigning for the rights and needs of children, argues that last year’s savage cuts have had a devastating effect on vulnerable families, and argues that the State will fall into a deeper economic crisis if it continues to target children’s services. The Alliance also exposes Ireland as the only EU state that has a policy of targeting children for cuts; other states facing similar economic challenges have not yet targeted vital children’s services, like education, health and social welfare. The Alliance believes that safeguarding the best interests of children in Ireland – now and in the future – is the only way out of the country’s crippling economic nightmare, stating: “now, more than ever, children must not be forgotten.”
Mrs Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, in her speech to Minister Hanafin, will say: “These cuts are not made in isolation, they add up, and the same child will be affected. It is the same child that moves from a home, where money is desperately short, to a school without resources. It is the same child that no longer gets a school book grant, who has been priced out of access to hospital services, and whose parents have lost their Christmas bonus. This is not an image of childhood that we should be proud of in today’s Ireland. And we are ashamed to say that Ireland is unique in the EU for its policy of targeting children for cuts – no other state has yet done this. We urge you today to ensure that previous education cuts are squashed and that you do all that you can to safeguard the Child Benefit payment in its present form.”
At the Pre-Budget Forum, the Alliance will focus on three key priorities, as requested by Minister Hanafin, outlining recommendations in relation to the Child Benefit payment, the Qualified Child Increase and supports for children in education. The Alliance argues that committed and proper action in these three key areas in Budget 2010 could demonstrate that the Government is genuinely interested in supporting children and protecting them from further cuts.
Child Benefit is the only payment in the country that is paid on behalf of nearly every single child. Its universality is a clear statement that a country cherishes all of the children in Ireland equally. Child Benefit is a regular, reliable and easy to access payment that every family is entitled to. It should not be up for grabs. Taxing or means-testing it would demonstrate blind short-termism that is impractical, costly and will ultimately fail to make any savings.
The Qualified Child Increase (QCI) is one of just a few targeted measures for supporting the poorest children in Ireland – and those that are living in families totally dependent on social welfare. Every childhood counts and accident of birth should not blight a child’s life. This is why the Alliance wants Budget 2010 to maintain the QCI at its current value of €26 per week.
Supports for children in education are a tried and tested route out of poverty and are the key to social inclusion. A failed education is a life sentence for a child. Consequently, Budget 2010 must make education a priority and change the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance to a payment that genuinely helps with the cost of school; a ‘Cost of School Allowance’. And the payment should be increased to €300 per year for children between two and 11 years, and €500 per year for children between 12 and 17 years.
Mrs van Turnhout, commenting on the An Bord Snip and Commission on Taxation reports’ recommendations, added: “These reports are misguided and their recommendation of further cuts leaves me speechless. These are not victimless cuts. I’m not sure what’s worse: the immorality of them, or the lack of basic economics. Of course we need to save money, but certainly not at the expense of education. It was our educated population that dragged us out of recession in the 1980s. Have we learnt nothing from our experience? It is not too late to reverse these decisions. We call on Minister Hanafin to be a children’s champion at Cabinet, to base her contributions on the principles and provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992, and to ensure that the Government does not map out cuts that will prove a false economy.”
For further information, please contact:
Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 7702845; Fax: (01) 662 9355
Notes to Editor:
• PLEASE NOTE: The Child Benefit payment is not paid to those children who do not satisfy the Habitual Residency Condition; this includes 2,227 children living in Direct Provision Centres.
• The Pre-Budget Submission and Alliance speech to Minister Hanafin on 9 October 2009 are available on the Alliance web site at www.childrensrights.ie
• Budget 2009 and the April Supplementary Budget made savage cut to services that effect children. In education – the key to every child’s future – language support teachers, libraries, school book grants and special needs services were lost. Children’s access to quality and timely healthcare was further threatened by increases in the cost of medicine, A&E and hospital in-patient beds. The holding of a referendum on children’s rights in Ireland was firmly ruled out for 2009.
• Ireland was highlighted as the only EU State to currently have a policy of cutting children’s services in a Eurochild Policy Working Group meeting, ‘Analysis of the Impact of the Economic Crisis on Children’, Brussels, 16/17 September 2009.
• The Alliance Pre-Budget Submission 2010 is split into three sections:
- The first outlines a set of principles that we propose should guide the Minister in making her budgetary decisions.
- The second focuses on specific changes in Budget 2010.
- The third takes a longer-term view and examines the changes that should be made now, so that child poverty in Ireland is eradicated.