Call for focus on Child Poverty in Budget 2024
‘Minimum Standard of Living’ needed for all Families
Alarming increases in child poverty are in urgent need of a Government response – and should be a major focus of Budget 2024.
That’s according to Child and Family support organisation Treoir which is hosting a national seminar today (May 18) to present information on children and families’ current lived experiences – and the rising challenges being faced.
Treoir CEO Damien Peelo said very concerning current evidence and data shows that child poverty needs to be placed at the top of the political agenda.
“Budget 2024 needs to be a child focused budget. CSO statistics from 2022 show an additional 27,382 children in consistent poverty, a rise of 7.5%. There also was a 20% rise in children in deprivation (34,225 additional) and a 15% rise in children at risk of poverty (19,048 additional).
“We are calling on the Budget to implement a ‘Minimum Standard of Living’. This would be calculated by benchmarking the National Minimum Wage and Social Welfare Payments to establish an adequate living income for everyone.”
The seminar Perspectives on Child Poverty from Parents’ Lived Experience was also addressed by Trinity College Dublin Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy Dr. Joe Whelan who said that to address rising child poverty, poverty needs to be much higher on the political agenda.
“At the moment, poverty is not on the policy agenda in Ireland. This, along with the fact that poverty tends to be measured and thought of in economic terms prevents Ireland from meaningfully addressing poverty.
“Addressing poverty begins and ends with a strong social safety net. This means strong early childhood education and care policies, coupled with social welfare rates indexed above the at risk level.
Asked which policy changes most need to happen Co. Clare based lone-parent Theresa O’Donohoe called for “a universal basic income to support lone-parent families”. Regarding housing she said; “a national retrofit scheme is needed to improve the quality of older poorer housing stock where those on low incomes are often forced to live. This is needed to give security to the lived experiences of those families.”
The Seminar was also addressed by the St Vincent de Paul, Head of Social Justice and Policy Dr. Tricia Kielthy who spoke about the impact of child poverty on children and parents and the success and gaps in tackling it.
Damien Peelo continued by highlighting how the current housing crisis is contributing to the rising poverty and social exclusion experienced by lone-parent families.
“In Ireland, lone-parent families (80% headed by women) are over-represented in homeless figures, housing waiting lists, in the private rented accommodation sector and have low homeownership rates. Fathers who are in temporary, shared, or homeless accommodation are often unable to facilitate access with their child which can have a detrimental effect on their relationship.
“On top of this, becoming homeless and living in homeless, insecure or temporary accommodation can be deeply traumatic for children.
“These traumatic experiences have lasting impacts and we need to intervene now and to prevent longer term problems. Children who grew up in poverty are 35% more likely to be in adult deprivation.”
He added that the high cost of childcare is a further problem which falls most heavily on poorer lone-parent families.
“Ireland’s childcare costs are some of the most expensive in the world and this is felt most acutely by unmarried parents, particularly lone-parent households headed by mothers. Ireland needs a public universal childcare model to support lone-parents returning to education and being able to access to the job market without having to spend a significant percentage of their income on childcare costs.
In conclusion, Mr Peelo welcomed the recent establishment of the Child Poverty and Well-Being unit by An Taoiseach and highlighted Ireland’s international legal obligations.
“Every government department (not just the Departments of Children and Social Protection) must child-poverty proof their policies. Article 4 of the UNCRC states that governments must do all they can to ensure every child can enjoy their rights by legislating to protect children’s rights – and Ireland signed up to delivering this for all citizens 30 years ago.”
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
Treoir is the National Information Service for unmarried parents and their children providing clear and up-to-date information free of charge to parents who are not married to each other and to those involved with them. www.treoir.ie