Children and young people being pulled into poverty at rate higher than general population –
Child Poverty Monitor renews calls for national child poverty unit
Today (13.07.2022), the Children’ Rights Alliance launches a new Child Poverty Monitor - the first, in a series of reports that will analyse the complexity of child poverty across the country. The Monitor explores the root causes and showcase solutions to addressing issues including educational disadvantage, social exclusion, accessing healthcare, homelessness, food poverty and income inadequacy.
Speaking at the launch of the Monitor, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said,
“Affordable childcare. Waiting lists. Homelessness. School costs. While these issues are on the tip of everyone’s tongues, we are asking, are they top of mind for our political leaders? The Child Poverty Monitor and its findings come at a pivotal point. As politicians debate how best to navigate the cost of living crisis, there is a rising tide of child poverty we cannot deny. What does this cost a child? Their education. Their aspirations. Their wellbeing. Will they ever reach their full potential?
The ESRI warned early on that the pandemic could cause a rise in child poverty. Our Child Poverty Monitor analysis shows that the issues for children and young people are indeed starting to worsen– growing waiting lists for key health services and mental health supports; barriers to access education; increased need for social housing. The cost of heating your home or your weekly food shop are all rising. The trends are going in the wrong direction, the Government’s response cannot.
As we launch this report, there are thousands of children going without what we all consider to be basic essentials. Families are borrowing to scrape together enough money to send their child back to school. Children are spending their whole day in a hotel room, travelling hours to school and desperately trying to put on a brave face in front of friends. Young people are missing milestones and opportunities to socialise or engage in any extracurricular activities with their peers. Thousands are still waiting to access mental health services.
We need our leaders to make child poverty a political priority. This will require new, ambitious thinking and commitment to cross-departmental work, as the Monitor emphasises, none of these issues exists or is experienced in isolation. Child poverty is not inevitable, it is the result of political choices. We are calling on the current Government to choose to break the cycle of poverty with more than 160,000 children and young people at risk of poverty.”
Early Years: “There are several key interventions that the Government can make happen now that will help families keep their heads above water in the short-term,” continued Tanya Ward. “There is no national programme addressing poverty in early years. And this is despite the fact that early years’ education for children living poverty is the great equaliser. We also know that children from marginalised backgrounds, including Traveller children, are finding it near impossible to get into services without support.
Affordability of childcare currently has a vice-grip on families up and down the country, from urban cities to rural towns. The unfortunate reality here is that affordable, quality childcare is the best way to support families out of poverty. However, the National Childcare Scheme doesn’t go far enough to make childcare affordable and the lack of provision is a concrete barrier for women and parents returning to work. And Ireland lags far behind other European countries."
Budget 2023: “The Children’s Rights Alliance welcomes new measures brought forward to address the cost of living however, this cannot be the sole focus of Budget 2023. The cost of living measures are in their nature, temporary. They are essential so that families stay afloat but this year’s Budget needs to do so much more. The Monitor shows that for many children and families, continued underinvestment in some public services, coupled with the pandemic pressures, have exacerbated difficulties that existed before,” said Tanya Ward. “Budget 2023 can put children and young people first with targeted measures and, investment in expanding and properly resourcing universal measures that the Monitor demonstrates have worked.”
- Without an adequate income, basic essentials are further out of reach for children and their families. Government needs to raise the Qualified Child Increase by a minimum of €7 for the under 12s and a minimum of €12 for over 12s. Increase core social welfare rates by a minimum of €20 for all households with children.
- The positive impact the Hot School Meals Programme is crystal clear when we listen to the schools currently running it. Government needs to extend the Hot School Meals Programme nationally. To address the issue of holiday hunger, Government needs to fund and develop a pilot initiative for the expansion of school meals during holiday time by leveraging existing community infrastructure and relationships between schools and summer camps.
- Back to school costs are an immediate concern for so many families this month. The recently announced increase in the Back to School allowance is welcome but this needs to be retained in 2022 and increased in 2023 in line with inflation.
- Children in one parent families are more than four times more at risk of consistent poverty than children in two parent families. To ensure equality between different household types and to increase the income of one parent families in work, reduce the Working Family Payment weekly work threshold from 19 hours to 15 hours for one parent families.
- In advance of the new funding model being developed and implemented and the new funding stream to tackle disadvantage being introduced, provide free access to childcare for families on the lowest incomes by providing higher levels of subsidisation under the National Childcare Scheme for all families in receipt of the Medical Card.
The Child Poverty Monitor also looks to the long-term recommendations needed to ensure that Government unlocks access to essential public services for the children and young people who need them most.
“We have reached an economic tipping point where more and more children and families are being pulled into poverty which warrants immediate action from Government. However, interim measures will not solve this alone. The weight of poverty is being passed from generation to generation. We need a national lead at the highest levels of Government that can drive the change that is needed. A child poverty unit would facilitate the effective cross-departmental and cross-government work needed and ensure that support and resources are invested in services and programmes that are making a real difference in local communities,” concluded Tanya Ward. “The initiatives and innovative solutions we see at a local level, showcased in the Child Poverty Monitor, are examples of action that needs to be scaled up by Government. And the time to do so is now. A recent report found that Ireland had one of the largest deterioration in the risk of poverty among children over the last decade. Our political leaders can choose to change that.”
For media queries please contact Emma Archbold: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0879971410
Notes to Editors:
• Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for media interviews.
• Child Poverty Monitor 2022 is available on the Children’s Rights Alliance website.
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About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 140 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. #ChildPovertyMonitor