Belfast Telegraph

Poor Irish children 'neglected'

Ireland's most vulnerable children are missing out on basic services despite living in poverty, a study has revealed.

According to the State of the Nation's Children Report: Ireland 2010, the percentage of children in consistent poverty has increased significantly in recent years, with a 24% rise in the number of families in need of social housing.

Traveller children and children with a disability and or chronic illness were also less likely to feel safe where they live and more likely to be bullied. They also report significantly lower levels of happiness.

Children's Minister Barry Andrews said the review will make a contribution to understanding children's lives in Ireland and will place a greater focus on the more vulnerable groups of children.

He said: "Unfortunately, this analysis shows that these vulnerable groups of children do not tend to fare as well as children in Ireland more generally across many of the indicators."

Taking previously released surveys and Census data on children's lives, the report focused on outcomes in health, education, behaviour, as well as social, emotional and children's services and support.

Ireland has the highest proportion of children in the European Union, with foreign children accounting for 6% of the population. Almost half of the total traveller population of Ireland are under 18, with daily cigarette smoking and lifetime cannabis use higher among this group. Socially, the number of child welfare and protection reports assessed increased by 2,844 between 2006 and 2008, with confirmed cases of child abuse also rising.

In 2009, 21 young children took their own lives and the number of children admitted to psychiatric hospitals rose. In health, the review showed that almost a quarter of seven-year-old children were either overweight or obese.

However, Mr Andrews said he was encouraged by findings showing a decline in child deaths and teen births, a rise in childhood immunisation rates and a year-on-year increase in breastfeeding rates.

"Also of note in this report are the impressive improvements in data on child wellbeing," he added.

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