By Ann Marie Foley - 03 September, 2015
“The Taoiseach recently said the elimination of child poverty was a moral imperative for any government. Yet child poverty rates in Ireland are a national scandal."
One thousand three hundred and eighteen children were reported homeless in June an increase of 52% since January.
This is just one of the reasons why Barnardos has launched its Rise Up for children in 2016 campaign in the lead up to the election.
The children’s charity is calling on all of the political parties to prioritise children in their pre-election manifestos.
“The Taoiseach recently said the elimination of child poverty was a moral imperative for any government. Yet child poverty rates in Ireland are a national scandal. One in eight children live in consistent poverty and nearly two in five experience deprivation – this means these children are going hungry, are without a waterproof coat or live in a poorly heated home,” said Fergus Finlay, CEO, Barnardos.
He pointed out that 2016 is the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation with its “fundamentally symbolic” commitment to cherishing all children equally.
“Even before we celebrate that centenary, Ireland will see a general election. We cannot let the election pass without demanding concrete action to address the moral imperative of child poverty. We cannot celebrate the centenary without challenging the many inequalities that allow child poverty to flourish.”
Barnardos is calling for action in five areas of a child’s life; first year of life, early years, education, health and housing.
Homelessness was also addressed yesterday (2 September) by Dunia Hutchinson, National Manager for Homeless Services, Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP), in her blog in which she described the effects of homelessness as “carnage”.
“It is ‘carnage’ out there. The level of need our volunteers and staff are meeting, day in day out, is overwhelming and on an unprecedented scale. We are not alone in feeling it – every organisation involved in delivering services to those experiencing homelessness is overwhelmed by the pace and size of the problem.”
She gave as an example the SVP drop-in centre in Limerick (which provides meals, showers and laundry facilities). It now serves 70 people a day compared to 20 a day in 2003.
Emergency accommodation services have been at capacity for most of this year, that comes to 300 beds per night across the country.
She said it is vital to keep going even in the face of such demand but also to inform the advocacy work of the SVP Social Justice team.
“We could easily get lost in the sheer volume of demand we are facing – both in services and in visitation – so now, more than ever, we need to use our unique position and experiences to inform policy and to continue to help create change for the most vulnerable.”
Barnardos’ Rise Up for children campaign is demanding action from political decision-makers in key areas including:
1. Safeguarding the first year of a child’s life
Invest sufficiently in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency
2. Increasing investment in early childhood care and education
Increase spending on early years to meet the international average of 0.8% of GDP
3. Providing free primary education
This would require an annual investment of €103.2m, equating to just €185 extra per pupil
4. Guaranteeing access to primary care services for all children when they need it
Guarantee one fully operational Primary Care Team for every 1,500 children
5. Securing home for all children
Stabilise rents over time by linking rental prices to the Consumer Price Index and raise rent supplement levels to help struggling families now