One in eleven children live in consistent poverty in Ireland, according to the annual Report Card compiled by the Children’s Rights Alliance.
‘There may be no room for complacency, but there is considerable room for shame’, said Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay. According to M. Finlay, one in five of the 1200 children surveyed go to school or bed hungry several times a week. Tackling poverty is a whole-of-government issue and is something that needs to be prioritised in order to see progress next year.
The Children’s Rights Alliance has awarded the government an overall C grade, in their annual Report Card launched today. The Report Card awarded a B grade for government performance on issues such as the children’s constitutional rights, education and the protection of children from abuse and neglect. However, in areas such as health and the opportunity for an adequate standard of living, the government performed poorly receiving a D+ and D grade respectively.
According to Children’s Rights Alliance Chief Executive Tanya Ward the Government has broken its own promises regarding mental health. Mental health was the most disappointing, she said, with the government only spending €20 million of the €35 million it committed to mental health. She said that 1 in 3 young people have sighted mental health issues:
‘Mental health is a critical issue for children, not a marginal issue. 10% of adolescent felt they needed professional help. This is not marginal.’ She also emphasised the need for child and youth facilities saying that 68 children were accommodated in adult mental health facilities this year.
The government also performed poorly when it came to the rights of children from minority groupings. The grade awarded for work relating to traveller children remained unchanged from last year’s report at an E, while the grade for government action regarding migrant children fell from an E to an F.
Judge Catherine McGuinness also commented saying:
‘Infant mortality rates for Traveller children are 3.6 times that of the general population. We are in danger of leaving Traveller children behind unless we include specific commitments in national policy. More than 10% of our school-going children come from a migrant background; the policy of Direct Provision for asylum seekers and their children is detrimental to their welfare and development and should be ceased immediately. Overall we see that systemic change has begun, but that those categories of children who have no voice within the system continue to be marginalised. They deserve better. We look forward to an established Child and Family Agency, Children First legislation and the new Children and Family Relationships Bill and hope 2014 will be the best year yet for children and young people in Ireland’.
Report Card 2014 is the 6th report in the annual series and seeks to grade the government’s performance on children’s issues, by comparing its work to commitments set out in the programme for government. Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said:
‘The Programme for Government is ambitious for children. Minister Fitzgerald, along with her cabinet colleagues, have helped advance the cause of children’s rights. There is no doubt that a full Cabinet position for children and young people is having a positive impact. We have singled out Education for praise due to advancements in literacy, school buildings and progress on patronage and pluralism in primary schools. We also acknowledge headway with the newly established Child and Family Agency, ending the detention of children in St. Patrick’s institution and the construction of a new facility for young offenders at Oberstown.’
Words by Darragh McGrath and Marie Lecoq