Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Child charity downgrades ministers

The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, launches the Mortgage Arrears Information and Advice Service at George's Quay House, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday September 6, 2012. Burton said the initiative will be available to borrowers in mortgage distress who are being offered long-term resolution proposals by their lenders. A panel of accountants, drawn from members of the main accountancy institutes in Ireland, have agreed to participate and support the independent service - which will be paid for by the banks. See PA story POLITICS Mortgage Ireland. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire

A leading charity has downgraded the Government for efforts to protect children with a damning assessment on the impact of welfare and benefit cuts.

The annual Children's Rights Alliance report card gave the coalition a C grade after scrutinising promises made on the back of the 2011 election.

Tanya Ward, the charity's chief executive, said the Government's record will be viewed as a disappointment.

She said: "Children are the real losers in Budget 2013 with cuts to child benefit not being reinvested in children's services and controversies and underspend in health leading to major delays in health reform.

"Unfortunately, we continue to trample on the rights of children. Implementation of mental health policy requires immediate redress, and the under-spend in funds addressed. For the second year in a row, we are failing to protect children from austerity measures. In fact, children are taking the brunt of these harsh measures."

The 2013 report card saw the Government's record slip from a C+ last year. The coalition was commended for strengthening children's rights in the Constitution and plans to end the use of St Patrick's institution to detain 17-year-olds. But Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton's department was heavily criticised over child poverty.

Given a fail grade, the alliance said Budget 2013 hit the poorest families the hardest. The alliance also criticised what it called an underspend in mental health, inaction on alcohol misuse and delays in primary care and the children's hospital.

Overall, the report found the Government has failed to support migrant or traveller children or to address family inequalities. Elsewhere, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald was awarded an A grade for strengthening children's constitutional rights and an overall B- for steps to better protect children from abuse and neglect.

Sheila Greene, Professor and Fellow Emeritus, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, said: "While the recent passing of the Children's Rights Referendum was undoubtedly a positive marker, the Government is failing to live up to many of its promises in relation to children and young people, particularly those who are the most vulnerable."

The alliance report card has been running for five years and is currently examining promises made in the 2011 Programme for Government.

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