The Government is being urged to take immediate steps to address child poverty with figures showing almost 7,000 children in Cork are now trapped in consistent poverty.
The Children’ Rights Alliance this week launched a new Child Poverty Monitor - the first, in a series of reports that will analyse the complexity of child poverty across the country.
It explores the root causes of poverty and suggests solutions to addressing issues including educational disadvantage, social exclusion, accessing healthcare, homelessness, food poverty and income inadequacy.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said that the report’s findings show that issues for children and young people are starting to worsen with growing waiting lists for key health services and mental health supports, barriers to access education, increased need for social housing, and rising costs of living.
“Child poverty has seeped into every county in the country and it manifests in different ways, across rural, urban and suburban areas.
“In Cork, children and young people are carrying the weights of the issues analysed in the Child Poverty Monitor.
“Right now, there are 6,969 children living in consistent poverty. That is roughly the entire population of Bandon, starved of the most basic needs for a decent standard of living. We know this is not right,” Ms Ward said.
The Alliance is calling on the Government to establish a national child poverty unit which it says can be a driver for national policies and steer local action plans to address the levels of child poverty we are seeing.
“The monitor enables us to analyse the multi-faceted nature of child poverty and develop solutions. When we focus on the situation on the ground in Cork, there are clear issues that need attention. Families in Cork face some of the highest childcare costs in the country at €204.36 for a full day week in Cork City and €193.53 for a full day week in Cork County (average €186.84).
“The trend for child homelessness has been going in the wrong direction for the last three years months. In May, there were 109 children in the South West living in homeless accommodation, which has an enormous impact on a child’s health and wellbeing, personal development and education.
“611 children and young people in Cork are waiting for a CAMHS appointment, representing 15 per cent of the total waitlist figures in the country. Given the impact the pandemic has had on children and young people and the current rise in demand for youth mental health supports, this is of serious concern,” Ms Ward added.
There were some positives, however.
“In the 2021/2022 school year there were 113 schools providing schools meals to young children in Cork, with 17 schools providing a hot school meal. The Child Poverty Monitor demonstrates the transformative impact a hot meal every day can have on a child’s health and in turn, on their education.,” Ms Ward said.
Following the publication of the new report, the Children’ Rights Alliance has made a number of recommendations including increasing core social welfare rates by a minimum of €20 for all households with children, extending the hot school meals programme, and providing free access to childcare for families on the lowest incomes.
“We have reached an economic tipping point where more and more children and families are being pulled into poverty which warrants immediate action from Government. However, interim measures will not solve this alone.
"The weight of poverty is being passed from generation to generation. We need a national lead at the highest levels of Government that can drive the change that is needed. A child poverty unit would facilitate the effective cross-departmental and cross-government work needed and ensure that support and resources are invested in services and programmes that are making a real difference in local communities,” concluded Tanya Ward.