By Ann Marie Foley - 09 February, 2016
Childrens’ charity Barnardos has urged voters to speak to election candidates about the importance of addressing child poverty.
“It is important for every candidate seeking our vote in the coming weeks to understand the appalling extent of child poverty rates in Ireland and hear the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child so they know what steps they must take when they take up their posts in the 32nd Dáil,” said June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos.
On 14 January, Barnardos and several other Irish NGOs, as well as the Minister for Children, attended the hearing of the UN Committee in Geneva.
The last such meeting was held in 2006. The committee takes submissions and makes recommendations and those were issued last week (4 February).
While much focus was on the recommendations on education the Committee also covered many other issues.
June Tinsley highlighted how the Committee criticised the Irish State for slow implementation of many laws and policies which could make life better for children.
In particular the Committee found it unacceptable that children living in poverty had poorer access to adequate healthcare services and housing.
“They were clear on the solutions; more social housing must be built and emergency housing support must be suitable for children and subject to adequate safeguards,” said June Tinsley.
“In relation to health, they called on the Government to address structural inequalities which affect poorer children’s access to healthcare services and ensure all children enjoy the same access to and quality of care.”
Barnardos supports the Committee’s concerns about under-resourcing of the Child and Family Agency.
The Agency should be funded sufficiently to be able to respond immediately to child protection referrals and support at-risk children, and plan for longer-term prevention and early intervention initiatives.
The child charity also welcomed the Committee’s assertion that poverty reduction targets for 2020 should be revised because of the increase in the number of children living in consistent poverty (approximately one in nine according to the latest figures).
“We echo their call for the adoption of a detailed, time-framed action plan to reduce child poverty, and would urge this has a specific focus on investment in quality public services,” she said.
She added that it is also important to include a children’s rights impact assessment in all fiscal and budgetary decisions.
“We look forward to seeing the Government’s response to these recommendations and urge it to begin implementation of them as soon as the Dáil resumes,” she said.
Barnardos will hold its hustings along with the Children’s Rights Alliance and the ISPCC on Thursday where the children of St Enda’s School in Dublin will be present to ask General Election 2016 candidates about issues which are important to them.
Barnardos is not alone in approaching candidates to find out where they stand on social justice and moral issues.
Other charities including Focus Ireland have urged its supporters to question local candidates on the issues.
Focus Ireland also wants supporters to remind politicians that housing and homelessness are not marginal issues, they matter to everyone and require real answers.
Focus has formulated five key questions to ask candidates to:
. make a renewed commitment to ending long-term homelessness and rough sleeping and its causes, and set targets.
. have a programme to build at least 40,000 social houses over the lifetime of the new Government .
.hold a referendum on the ‘right to a home’ within the first three years of the next Government.
.have a realistic and effective plan to end family homelessness.
. commit to ending the youth homelessness trap.
The Pro-Life Campaign has also had a launch – a video on Facebook and YouTube for voters who want information about the stances of General Election candidates on the 8th Amendment.
Deputy Chairperson of the PLC Cora Sherlock said that supporters have been requesting such information.