Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Children Robert Troy says the Government needs to ensure that children’s policies are prioritised as the recovery in the economy begins to take hold. Deputy Troy was commenting after a new UNICEF study revealed a 10% increase in the child poverty rate in Ireland during the height of the recession.
Deputy Troy commented, “I’m extremely concerned about the findings of this research, which reveals the impact of the recession on children in this country. Children’s rights have slipped down the agenda of this Government, and much of the progress made by the last Government has been eroded by a number of regressive Budgets.
“Over the past three and a half years, we’ve seen various Ministers drive through harsh cuts to essential benefits, which have had a major impact on families across the country. This Government has reduced child benefit, slashed the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, abolished the Cost of Education Allowance and cut the One Parent Family Allowance. These measures have heaped financial pressure on already hard pressed families and in many cases have forced them into a choice between forgoing almost essential items, or running up debt.
“Not only has the Government begun dismantling important financial support structures for families through the various benefits, it is now shying away from commitments it made on child protection issues. Two years after the people voted to enshrine the rights of children in our constitution, the Government is still unable to move forward with the legislation, because its conduct in the referendum campaign is being challenged in the courts.
“Promises on early education must also be called into question. It’s more than a year since the Minister for Children received the report of Expert Advisory Group on the Early Years Strategy; however no policy has been published to date. This group maintained that a comprehensive early years plan “could break cycles of poverty and disadvantage, and remove barriers of inequality. It could significantly reduce anti-social behaviour, dependency and alienation. It could help to build a stronger economy.” We’re still waiting.
“This Government’s record on children is nothing more than a litany of broken promises. Despite establishing a Department for Children with a dedicated full Cabinet Minister, almost every strategy or plan announced has been delayed or missed its targets. The appointment of a Minister for Children was heralded as a new departure, which would put children’s issues to the fore. This has simply not happened.
“The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, was set up earlier this year in an attempt to bring more cohesion to children’s services, however, cracks are already beginning to emerge. The agency is significantly under-funded, running a €25m deficit in the first 12 months of existence. Minister Reilly has failed to secure an adequate Budget for next year, which will further add to the problems which have begun to emerge.
“This cycle cannot continue. Children must be made a priority and any opportunity there is to increase investment, arising from the recovery of the economy, must be channelled into child services”.