By Luke O'Reilly, PA
Children and young people are falling into poverty at a rate higher than that of Ireland’s general population, the Children’s Rights Alliance has said.
It comes as the group launches a new Child Poverty Monitor – the first in a series of reports that will explore “the root causes” and provide solutions to issues including educational disadvantage, social exclusion, accessing healthcare, homelessness, food poverty and income inadequacy.
Speaking at the launch of the monitor, Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said its findings show that these issues for children and young people are starting to worsen.
“The ESRI warned early on that the pandemic could cause a rise in child poverty”, she said.
“Our Child Poverty Monitor analysis shows that the issues for children and young people are indeed starting to worsen – growing waiting lists for key health services and mental health supports; barriers to access education; increased need for social housing.
“The cost of heating your home or your weekly food shop are all rising. The trends are going in the wrong direction, the Government’s response cannot.”
She said that thousands of children are going without basic essentials and that families are borrowing money to be able to afford to send their children to school.
“As we launch this report, there are thousands of children going without what we all consider to be basic essentials. Families are borrowing to scrape together enough money to send their child back to school.
“Children are spending their whole day in a hotel room, travelling hours to school and desperately trying to put on a brave face in front of friends.
“Young people are missing milestones and opportunities to socialise or engage in any extracurricular activities with their peers. Thousands are still waiting to access mental health services.”
She called for the creation of a child poverty unit that would make a “real difference in local communities”.
“We need a national lead at the highest levels of Government that can drive the change that is needed”, she said.
“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.”
Other key recommendations made by the monitor include raising the qualified child increase, funding a pilot initiative for the expansion of school meals during the holidays, reducing the weekly work threshold from 19 hours to 15 hours for one parent families, and to provide higher levels of subsidisation for all families who receive a medical card.
The Children’s Rights Alliance helpline can be contacted on 01 902 0494.