BORD SNIP RECOMMENDATIONS WILL CUT CHILDHOOD SHORT
The Children’s Rights Alliance says that Bord Snip’s recommendations will cut childhood short, with almost one quarter (€1.28 billion) of the total proposed cuts directly impacting on children and those in disadvantaged families. Published today (Wednesday 29 July), the Alliance paper An Bord Snip: Cutting Childhood Short shows, overwhelmingly, how the recommendations will have a negative, deep and life-long impact on children. The Alliance is now urging the Government to use its foresight in deliberating on Bord Snip’s recommendations, most of which have been criticised by the Alliance as ill-conceived, quick-fix, short-term solutions. Moreover, too many are in breach of the Towards 2016 Social Partnership agreement.
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Alliance, says: ‘The Alliance is disturbed by many of the recommendations of An Bord Snip. While we acknowledge that the country is in crisis and that the Government faces difficult policy and budgetary choices, front-line services and supports for children and their families must be preserved. Children are our future, and cutting their childhood short spells economic trouble ahead. True, our public services need to be reformed and we also acknowledge that some of An Bord Snip’s recommendations will be of benefit to children, but we are firmly of the belief that upholding essential services and supports for children and families makes economic sense. Cuts now, particularly in education and health services, will prove a false economy.’
The Alliance calls on the Government to examine each and every proposed cut in light of its impact on children and to consider children’s best interests when making ‘difficult choices’. The Alliance cautions that any immediate action must prove to be a smart use of resources in the medium to long-term, stating: ‘Now is not the time for quick-fix solutions, which are costly to set up and administer, and damaging in the long run. Budgetary decisions must consider whether the costs – economic and social – will outweigh any potential savings.’
Any changes to the Child Benefit payment will have an immediate impact on childhood says the Alliance, stating that, ‘in these uncertain economic times, a non-stigmatising, regular, reliable, easy-to-access payment to families is of critical importance’. A blanket cut would hit the poorest families hardest, while taxing or means-testing the payment would generate huge administrative costs, and risk triggering mass political discontent. The Alliance calls on the Government to reconsider its decision to tinker with the Child Benefit payment.
Other recommendations of deep concern to the Alliance are the proposed changes to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children; increased charges for school transport; cuts in the youth justice system; the introduction of further charges for access to health services, which may force parents on low incomes to think twice before taking a sick child to hospital; and bigger classes, coupled with fewer psychologists and special needs assistants, will spell trouble for children in need and will inevitably require costly state support in adulthood.
Mrs van Turnhout adds: ‘In ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Convention in 1992, Ireland committed to vindicate children’s civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. International eyes are upon us, and we have a duty to ensure that saving our economy is not at the expense of childhoods.
The Taoiseach asked us to critically and carefully read the report; we have done this and our response is both comprehensive and measured. Balancing the books is necessary, facing up to the challenges ahead is also necessary. But let us do this wisely. Safeguarding childhood will save us a great deal of heartache today, tomorrow and for years into the future’.
For further information, please contact:
Maria Corbett, Policy Director
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087-7835057; Fax: (01) 662 9355
Notes to Editors:
- Copies of the Alliance paper can be found here or by contacting Maria Corbett. Part 1 is a brief analysis of the recommendations’ impact on children, while section two contains a summary of the recommendations by governmental department, which directly impact on children or may indirectly have a significant impact on their lives and those of their families. Part 2 contains a listing of the cuts and the proposed savings in table format.
- The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes dubbed ‘An Bord Snip Nua’ was published on 16 July 2009. The Special Group sat for six months and was chaired by UCD Economist, Mr. Colm McCarthy. The Group’s mandate was to examine all current Exchequer spending across all Departments and agencies, to see where expenditure and staff savings might be made, in response to the current financial crisis.
- The Group’s report identifies potential expenditure savings of €5.3 billion, with associated staff reductions of 17,300 in public service numbers. The highest staff reductions are in the Department of Education & Science (6,930) and in the Department of Health and Children (6,168).