Leading NGOs are urging the government to take steps to help Ireland's poverty stricken children
Charity organisations are warning that one-in-nine children in Ireland are living in consistent poverty.
The Government is being urged to focus on the needs of children as it prepares for Budget 2018.
Charities like Barnardos, the Children's Rights Alliance, The National Youth Council of Ireland, One Family and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul have all joined forces to urge the government to take definite steps to help Ireland’s poverty stricken children – and a range of struggling groups.
They are all attending the Department of Social Protection pre-budget forum at Dublin Castle this morning – with over 40 NGOs attending in total.
Speaking ahead of the forum, June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy at Barnardos told Newstalk that poverty can really destroy a child’s life:
“It totally prevents them from reaching their potential,” she said. “It means that they are living in a damp cold house and if they have health issues there are often long waiting lists to get medical treatment, because they don’t have access to health insurance.
“It means parents are dreading unexpected bills that they have to pay - and it can often mean going hungry.”
She said school costs have become a real burden on many families around Ireland.
“We know that ballpark about 10% will have to take out loans or go to family and friends to borrow money – others are juggling money from their household income and having to sacrifice other bills to pay for school costs.”
“Parents are experiencing a lot of frustration and anger at the system that is supposedly free.”
She said Barnardos firmly believes that key investments in services and income supports can “significantly help reach the government’s own target of lifting 100,000 children out of consistent poverty.”
Meanwhile the National Youth Council has called for an end to sub-minimum wage rates for under-18s - insisting that the current system discriminates against young people.
The council’s deputy director said Ireland is unique in western Europe in that we have a growing youth population – adding that “by 2025 we will have over one million young people” in Ireland.
He said increased funding for training schemes could be extremely beneficial for younger people starting out in the employment market.
“A really good investment by this government would be to ensure that those young people are given that chance,” he said.
“We can – realistically we believe, if the money and resources and political will is there – we can actually halve the levels of long-term youth unemployment by the end of next year.
“It is important now that we invest in young people today but also prepare the ground so that Ireland has a highly skilled workforce.”
There are currently 11,257 people under the age of 26 facing long-term unemployment in Ireland.
St Vincent de Paul meanwhile, has called for investment in childcare and family income supports as well as renewed efforts to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis.
The Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty is in attendance at today’s forum alongside the minister of state for disability issues, Finian McGrath TD.
Six themes have been selected for breakout sessions as part of the forum – ‘Housing Supports,’ ‘Children and Families,’ ‘Illness, Disability and Caring,’ ‘Retired and Older People,’ ‘Employment Services, Activation and Social Protection for Workers’ and ‘Income Adequacy and Social Inclusion.’