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Budget 2018 will be a litmus test of Taoiseach’s commitment to lift 100,000 children out of poverty

Leading NGOs in Ireland have joined voices ahead of the annual Pre-Budget Forum taking place today to call on the Government to ensure Budget 2018 includes key provisions to tackle child poverty. Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, National Youth Council of Ireland, One Family and Society of Saint Vincent de Paul are deeply concerned that one in nine children remain in consistent poverty and believe not enough is being done to remedy this.

We welcome that An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has made a clear public commitment that lifting 100,000 children out of consistent poverty will be a priority for him. This Government target provides a clear goal to work towards and to track progress against. Budget 2018 presents an ideal opportunity for An Taoiseach to demonstrate his commitment to children.” said Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance.

The group has compiled a report outlining a clear roadmap of practical solutions that would make a real positive difference in children’s lives. The group believe a combination of adequate income supports and investment in quality public services is central to reducing child poverty.

Karen Kiernan, CEO, One Family said “It is particularly important to understand where the poorest children in Ireland live and to provide targeted supports. Children living in one-parent families are 3.5 times more likely to be poor than children in two parent families, and these are families who have been hit hard by Budget cuts and reforms in recent years."

Government investment in quality early years services makes good sense. Yet Ireland continues to seriously lag behind internationally in levels of investment.

Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance said “Poverty can destroy a child’s life. Making childcare affordable is a route of 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, services can improve in quality, and every child can reach their potential – not stuck in a poverty trap.

Succeeding in education unlocks children’s potential and enables them to escape poverty. However, participation in the education system comes at cost that pushes many families into debt.

June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said “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 housing crisis continues to escalate with nearly 2,800 homeless children, as well as those living in insecure, overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.

Hazel O’Byrne, Head of Social Justice and Policy, St.Vincent de Paul commented “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.  Until this is available, flexibility to increase the rates of HAP and Rent Supplement can help to prevent further families becoming homeless.

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.

Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland said “Progress on reducing child poverty rates requires long-term and strategic investment in services and supports. Increased investment in Budget 2018 in services, such the School Meals Programme and Youth Work, is crucial. Investment in these services will make a real difference in the lives of children and young people in the long-term.”

It is essential Budget 2018 shows clear political commitment and investment in implementing Better Outcomes Brighter Futures and specifically actions that will reduce child poverty. Condemning 139,000 children to grow up in poverty is not a legacy to be proud of.

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