By Ann Marie Foley - 07 January, 2016
Food poverty, poor access to health services and homelessness are just some of the realities for many Irish children today.
“Barnardos research found that in Ireland today one in six children face food poverty; children from low-income families are waiting far longer for essential health treatments; and the number of children becoming homeless just keeps rising,” said June Tinsley, head of advocacy at Barnardos.
The charity’s preliminary figures show that the charity helped 340 more children in 2015 than in 2014.
That was almost 12,000 children who are not just denied physical needs but suffer knock-on effects such as difficulties in school.
For example, children’s maths and reading scores increase by 4% for every 1% more their parents earn.
“We know that in times of severe difficulty children are too often disproportionately affected,” said June Tinsley. She explained they often feel they are not worthy enough to have the same hopes and dreams as other children.
A survey of more than 500 young people aged 11-17 found that they know school is important for their future lives, and want to attend third-level education. They also want to be active and involved in their sports and community lives.
Barnardos states that many young people do not get the opportunity to properly participate in such activities.
The Charity’s statistics show that children from poorer households are 25% less likely to feel teachers understand them than those from wealthier households.
One young person told Baranrdos, “All of us should be treated equally no matter who we are. All children should get a good education.”
Another said they would like to build an athletics track and football pitches in poorer areas to help keep children off the streets.
Barnardos has called on politicians to help “these important and inspiring young people”, especially as now in post-recession they have more resources to invest.
Barnardos said that instead of giving tax cuts across the board for the term of the next Government, they should use the money to improve child welfare and protection services, early years care, education, health and housing supports.
Barnardos supported more than 11,718 children in 2015 compared to 11,378 in 2014.
Family disputes, addiction, bereavement and loss are among the reasons why families seek help from the children’s charity, which works with parents struggling to meet the needs of their children.
Barnardos, with two other children’s organisations, has also commented on the Government’s announcement that it is to increase the Direct Provision Allowance (DPA) for children by €6.
This is the first increase in almost 16 years. However, one spokesperson commented that it would barely cover the cost of a bottle of Calpol.
The Children’s Rights Alliance, Barnardos and the ISPCC said that the increase brings the payment to €15.60 per week for each child.
However, this commitment falls far short of the recommended increase to €29.80 as put forward by a Working Group Report on the Protection Process in June 2015.
“As a member of the Working Group, I was deeply upset to witness first-hand the poverty that children in direct provision must endure,” said Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, and a member of the Working Group on the Protection Process who called for the recommended increase to be introduced immediately.
“We’ve heard from mothers trying to save an extra egg to bake a birthday cake for a child, and from children who have never known anything other than basic conditions in institutional settings,” said Grainia Long, CEO, ISPCC.
June Tinsley, Barnardos, said that any increase is a move in the right direction, but is a paltry increase. The direct provision system is no place for children and it must be abolished.