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200,000 children 'live in poverty'


A woman begs with a child on the streets of Dublin

A woman begs with a child on the streets of Dublin

A woman begs with a child on the streets of Dublin

More than 200,000 children in Ireland are living below the poverty line while 500 vulnerable youngsters were recorded as homeless on Census night.

Charities have demanded Government action after official figures revealed almost a fifth of households with children were struggling to survive below the breadline - and warned the rate would soar to 38% without family allowances.

The income of households with children also fell four times more than childless households between 2009 and 2010, found the latest survey on income and living conditions by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Dr Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said the child poverty figures were profoundly disturbing and a scandal. He said: "It is crucial that government recognise the scale of child poverty and take effective action to reduce it dramatically by focusing on cutting the number of households in poverty."

The at risk of poverty rate for those living in households with children was 18.7% in 2010, compared to 11.8% for those in households without children, said the CSO. But the level soared to 26% among homes with 12-17-year-olds.

Dr Healy added: "Any level of child poverty is of concern but the rise in child poverty to these levels in recent years is profoundly disturbing and does not augur well for the future of Irish society. It is crucial that, even in difficult economic times, government protect poor children who are among the most vulnerable in Irish society."

Fergus Finlay, of the charity Barnardos, said: "There are increasing numbers of families for whom some level of social welfare support is essential in making sure there is food on the table and electricity to heat their home.

"We cannot afford to lose sight of the human face of the recession. Social welfare acts as a defence for many children who without it would suffer the kind of deprivation that has not been seen in this country in a long time."

Caroline Fahey, of the charity St Vincent de Paul, revealed 60% of calls for support are from mothers with children. "About half of families getting child benefit are on social welfare, so the debate on child benefit needs to focus on the huge amount of children in Ireland living in poverty," she added.

Elsewhere, newly-released Census figures revealed 503 people under the age of 18 were homeless on April 10, 2011 - 14% of the 3,800 without a permanent home. The majority were in hostels or shelter.