PRESS RELEASE: Budget 2020 needs to be the beginning of a long term, concerted effort by Government to end child poverty

Published date: 
5 Sep 2019

The Children’s Rights Alliance have today published their Budget 2020 Recommendations outlining six first steps the Government can take in this budget to reduce child poverty. Speaking on the publication the recommendations Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward, stressed the importance of taking steps now to help families currently trapped in consistent poverty: “There are over 100,000 children in Ireland living in consistent poverty and that simply isn’t right. To put it in context, that means children are going to bed or school hungry. It is one third of parents going into debt just to be able to send their child back to school. We can do better. We need political leadership and real transformation in Ireland to free children from poverty once and for all.

“The Budget is the last chance for this Government to do something to free families trapped in poverty. It should mark the beginning of what needs to be a long-term, concerted effort by our political leaders to end child poverty at the scale we have now. This Budget, and subsequent budgets, should be focused on ensuring that our children have access to basic healthcare, the opportunity to participate in society, free primary education and fundamentals like a hot nutritious meal every day. Our Budget recommendations highlight some of the ways this Government can deliver these.”

The six steps the Government should take to reduce child poverty outlined by the Children’s Rights Alliance include:

Food poverty
“Having a hot meal in your belly helps you to learn, sustains you throughout the day and keeps you warm, especially in winter. We welcomed the recent announcement from Minister Doherty of 36 pilot schools who will receive the hot school meal programme from this month. This is a scheme that every child can benefit from but especially lower-income families. It is also an incredibly positive social activity for the children in school. However, the demand for the programme far exceeds the 36 pilot places with 470 schools unsuccessful in their application. We want to see the programme rolled out nationally as it is in most other EU countries,” Tanya Ward commented.

Health
Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice at St Vincent de Paul commenting on the pre-budget recommendation under health said, “One in every four families in poverty do not have a medical card. The income thresholds currently in place have not been reviewed since 2005. That means that lower income working families who are struggling to make ends meet often do not qualify for a medical card which would give them access to basic healthcare for their children. Universal quality healthcare for all should be a key goal for government and by increasing the thresholds, we can begin to close the gap between these families and the healthcare supports they need.”

Education
“The long-term vision needs to be one focused on making education truly free for the children in this country. We need a concerted effort to address the rising school costs in both primary and secondary school that are squeezing the opportunities of children to participate fully in education and reach their full potential,” Suzanne Connolly, Chief Executive of Barnardos said. “Action to address inequality in education does not have to wait. The Government can use Budget 2020 to make a start by making school books free for every child in primary school. This can be done with €20 million, just 0.2% of the Department’s budget.”

Childcare and Targeted Measures
Commenting on the targeted recommendations, Karen Kiernan, Director of One Family, said, “To support the children most in need, we also need to see targeted measures in this Budget. One parent families are five times more likely to live in consistent poverty. We know that families with older children also struggle to afford adequate food, clothing and social activities. Our budget recommendations aim to support families to support themselves. We are calling for investment in childcare supports so that families do not lose out in the new National Childcare Scheme. The Social Support Fund we are asking for will mean support for families who are already experiencing deprivation and social exclusion, to prevent any more children falling below the poverty line.”

Participation
Tanya Ward continued, “Spending your childhood in poverty means you miss out on the things most of us take for granted: a stable home, warm clothes, school trips, having friends over. And we know that when children miss out on early learning opportunities, over time, it becomes harder and harder for them to make up that loss. Our budget recommendations also incorporate the opportunity to participate that so many children are not getting. We propose a €30 subsidy per child for them to enable them to do an arts or cultural activity of their choosing in their own community.”

“These recommendations are proposed as first steps of what needs to be a larger, long-term plan, directed by a lead or a unit entirely focused on reducing these numbers. The Budget presents an opportunity for the Government to turn the tide of child poverty but these measures will not solve these problems overnight. For example, on the issue of housing, we need transformative change to stop the rise of child homelessness. Without a long-term vision to free Ireland’s children from the grip of poverty, we will fail an entire generation”, concluded Ms. Ward.

ENDS

Contact:
Emma Archbold, Children’s Rights Alliance 01 662 9400 / email: emma.archbold@childrensrights.ie

Notes to Editor:
Spokespeople:
• Irish League of Credit Union’s School Cost Survey reported that a third of parents were going into debt to cover back to school costs. The full survey findings can be accessed here.
• Download the Pre-Budget Submission here

No Child 2020:
The No Child 2020 campaign launched in January 2019. The campaign is led by the Children’s Rights Alliance and an advisory group of its members including, Barnardos, Saint Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland, One Family, National Youth Council of Ireland, Children in Hospital, Irish Heart Foundation, INTO and ASTI. More information can be found on the campaign website

About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL