‘Systemic change’ needed to break cycle of child poverty in Ireland

Image: PA News Media

The Children’s Rights Alliance in Ireland has launched its Child Poverty Monitor 2023, analysing the state of play for children and young people and tracking government progress on tackling the key issues.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said that rising child poverty rates had ‘set the scene’ for the launch of this report, and called for a national action plan to deliver the ‘systemic change’ needed.

More than 236,000 children are effectively living in poverty in Ireland, and life for them, said Tanya, can mean ‘going to bed hungry several nights a week, sleeping in coats in winter because the heating is off or going to school with shoes that are painfully too small’.

“There are more children living in consistent poverty than any other age group in Ireland,” she added

Food, early years, income and housing are the four key areas that underpin the report, which claims that the 2023 Budget ‘failed to deliver sufficiently for the poorest children and young people living under the weight of poverty’.

She acknowledged that food poverty was one area where the government had ‘stepped up its responsibility’ to ensure no child goes to school hungry. The Irish Government has committed to expanding its Hot School Meals Programme this year, and ultimately aims to provide one to every child by 2030.

But the most effective approach to breaking the cycle of poverty, she said, was ‘investing in early years’. “When infants and small children are forced to live in poverty it has serious implications for the rest of their lives. They are immediately at a disadvantage when they start school. This just isn’t right,” she said.

‘This just isn’t right’

“It is up to the Government to ensure that policy and investment decisions that are made now, will be effective enough and ambitious enough to lift children out of this cycle of disadvantage. That work can begin now by making Budget 2024 a children’s budget.

“However, it is crucial that this work continues beyond Budget through the new Child Poverty and Wellbeing Unit. The structure is now in place to make real traction on the target to reduce our child poverty rates but the Unit needs a dedicated, ambitious plan that steps up Government action to tackle the drivers of poverty.

“The plan needs to ensure it takes a multi-pronged approach to address child poverty, harnessing the learnings from the local, best practice initiatives that are delivering real and lasting change in children’s lives,” 

The Irish Government recently published its progress reports for First 5, its strategy for babies, children and their families, including a range of measures aimed at helping reduce the risk of early childhood poverty.

Author: Simon Weedy

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