Belfast Telegraph

Charity calls on Government to tackle child poverty as deprivation rises

A total of 3,778 children are currently homeless in Ireland, and one in 11 families experience food poverty.

A number of recommendations have been made to help end child poverty (Ian West/PA)
A number of recommendations have been made to help end child poverty (Ian West/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Children’s Rights Alliance has called on the Government to tackle child poverty in the next budget.

The group published its Budget 2020 Recommendations on Thursday, outlining six first steps the Government can take in this year’s upcoming budget to reduce child poverty.

It highlighted the long-term effects of living in consistent poverty on children, and said the Government should take action now to prevent more youngsters growing up in deprivation.

According to the group, which advocates for the rights of children across Ireland, more than 100,000 children are living in consistent poverty, with one in 10 children going to bed or school hungry.

A total of 3,778 children are currently homeless in Ireland, and one in 11 families experience food poverty.

One third of parents find themselves in debt sending their child back to school, and single-parent families are five times more likely to live in consistent poverty.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), childcare costs in Ireland are the highest within the OECD for lone parents.

The six recommendations are:

– Free school books, with the Government providing free books to every child in primary school, at an estimated cost of 20 million euro;

– Hot school meals, to enable schools and non-formal educational settings to provide a nutritious meal to every child at a cost of 114 million euro;

– The Government to increase the income thresholds for families with children to qualify for a medical card at a cost of 126 million euro;

– The introduction a 30 euro subsidy per child to cover the cost of a child and an accompanying adult to attend one cultural or arts activity of their choice through the introduction of a ‘Culture Card’, at an estimated cost of 36 million euro;

– To increase the number of hours available for children in school age childcare from 17 to 25, investing in childcare for families experiencing deprivation and social exclusion, costing around 138 million euro;

– Increased payments to help families who are most at risk of poverty, including QCI, the Back to Work Family Dividend, the One Family Payment, Jobseekers Transitional Payment and Jobseekers Allowance.

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: “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.

“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.

“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.

“Without a long-term vision to free Ireland’s children from the grip of poverty, we will fail an entire generation.”

Suzanne Connolly, chief executive of Barnardos, stressed the importance of children participating fully in education.

“The long-term vision needs to be one focused on making education truly free for the children in this country,” she said.

“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 euro, just 0.2% of the Department’s budget.”

Similar calls have been made by groups such as Social Justice Ireland, whose research states that 230,000 of the country’s population live in a family with income below the poverty line.

PA

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