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Budget 2018 will be a child poverty ‘litmus test’ for Varadkar

By Cian Molloy - 23 July, 2017

The Society of St Vincent de Paul and other leading charities called on the government to ensure that this year’s budget tackles Ireland’s growing scandal of child poverty.

At present, one in nine Irish children, about 100,000 individuals aged under 18 years of age, live in consistent poverty. However, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that it is a priority for him to end this situation, something that has been welcomed by the SVP and by other NGOs such as Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the National Youth Council of Ireland and One Family.

However, in a statement released before the Pre-Budget Forum held on Friday 21 July, the five organisations issued a joint statement saying that not enough is being done to remedy the situation and that the next budget, due to be announced on Tuesday 10 October, will be a ‘litmus test’ of the Taoiseach’s commitment to tackling the problem.

Indeed, the group has gone further and issued a joint report setting out a range of practical solutions that would make “a real positive difference” in the lives of children in low income families.

The solutions proposed include: measures that would make it easier for parents, particularly single parents, to participate in the labour market; an adjustment of the benefits system so that in addition to income support children also received ‘in-kind benefits’ relating to nutrition and access to health services, education, transport and sports and socio-cultural activities; improved disease prevention and health education services; and a real effort to tackle the homelessness crisis.

Currently, some 2,800 children in Ireland are without a permanent home and thousands more live in insecure, over-crowded and unsuitable accommodation.

“Access to secure, long-term accommodation is the solution for these families and that can best be provided through increased investment to build and acquire additional social housing,” said the SVP’s head of social justice and policy Hazel O’Byrne. “Until this is available, flexibility to increase the rates of Housing Assistance Payment and Rent Supplement can help to prevent further families becoming homeless.”

Children’s Rights Alliance CEO Tanya Ward added: “Poverty can destroy a child’s life. Making childcare affordable is a route out of poverty because it helps children to learn and supports parents to work. Budget 2018 must invest in childcare so families can better afford it.”

And Barnardos Head of Advocacy June Tinsley commented: “Access to free primary education is a right for all children and it can be realised for as little as €103m per annum, just €185 per pupil. This would cover the costs of books, classroom resources, remove transport fees and voluntary contributions and raise the capitation rates back to 2010 levels.”

The five organisations said that making significant progress in reducing child poverty rates requires long-term strategic investment. They say this budget will be a ‘litmus test’ that can be used to gauge how sincere An Taoiseach is in tackling child poverty: Having a long-term approach to investing in services rather than annual budgetary cycles will prove more beneficial in building a more sustainable equitable society for our children.”

The full submission to government can be downloaded here: https://www.svp.ie/News-Media/Submissions/Poverty-In-Ireland/Submission-on-Actions-to-Achieve-the-Child-Poverty.aspx

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