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Growing up in Poverty should be part of our history

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 11:00
Campaign Groups Call for an End to Poverty among Children and Young People
Joint Plan calls for the number of children and young people living in poverty to be halved within 5 years, eliminated within 10 years.
 
National campaign groups with a membership base of 200 organisations across Ireland have today (8/12) come together to launch a plan of action setting out the essential steps for the next Government to lay the foundations for an end to child and youth poverty.
 
 
Start Strong, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the National Youth Council of Ireland have for the first time united our memberships around a common cause – the eradication of poverty among children and young people in Ireland. 
 
Together, the groups bring a membership and supporter base of more than 200 organisations operating in every townland in Ireland, working with newborn babies to young people from 0 to 25 years of age. 
Child Poverty Organisations
 
The recession has had a devastating effect on children and young adults. The number of children living in poverty has almost doubled in 5 years. This Christmas 1 in 8 children will live in consistent poverty - that means, in many cases, going without a winter coat, not having an adequately warm home, or not being able to eat a hearty meal every other day. Almost 1 in 5 of our young people don’t have a job or education/training course and many thousands have emigrated.
 
As the economy begins to recover and the public finances improve, the next Government will have choices on what to prioritise. Start Strong, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the National Youth Council of Ireland call on all future Government parties to get behind an essential goal.
 
End poverty among children and young people – no-one should grow up in poverty.
 
To achieve that, the next Government needs to –
 
Halve the number of children and young people living in poverty within 5 years with a view to eliminating poverty amongst children and young people within 10 years.
 
In doing so, the next Government must commit to the following actions:
 
Give all children a good start in life – ensure high-quality early care and education, ensure every child can go to school.
 
Make sure no child is hungry or homeless – extend the school meals programme and subsidise healthy foods. Ensure appropriate emergency accommodation and long-term solutions.
 
Give every young person a chance - Ensure no young person faces long-term unemployment, fully implement the Youth Guarantee, and restore the full Jobseekers Allowance to under 26s
 
Make sure everyone can afford to work and make work pay – ensure high-quality affordable childcare is available to all families, review recent changes to the One Parent Family Payment, increase the minimum wage to a living wage, and reform ‘in work’ income supports.
 
On the document’s launch Ms Ciairín de Buis, Director of Start Strong – a coalition group campaigning to improve government policy on early years in Ireland – said: “The next Programme for Government comes at a pivotal time. As we move away from austerity measures, it provides the public with an opportunity to prioritise what really matters. Children must always be our top concern.
 
“Ending child poverty must start from a child’s earliest years. Ensuring quality, affordable and accessible early years care and education means a commitment by the next Government to significant investment in the right areas. 
 
“Research tells us that only high-quality childcare services benefit young children, and the current standards of care vary hugely across the country. Linking childcare funding to the quality of services is essential to give all our young children the best possible start in life, while freeing parents to move out of poverty and into secure employment.”
 
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, added: “Child poverty is the most critical issue facing children in Ireland today. We know this from our members working at the coalface with families. The recovery has not filtered through to children.
 
“Every child has the right to an adequate standard of living. Yet, certain groups of children are more vulnerable to poverty such as the over 1,500 children living in homeless families and nearly the same number living in the direct provision system. One-parent families are also at serious risk.
 
“It is possible to protect children from child poverty by making smart decisions. A national, cross-departmental child poverty strategy will be central to this. Our goal to halve the number of children and young people in poverty is achievable in the lifetime of the next Government but only if there is political will to do so.” 
 
Mary Cunningham, Director of the National Youth Council of Ireland, commented: “The social and financial costs of unemployment are well known, in particular the impact of long periods of joblessness on individuals, their families, communities and our society as a whole. The scarring effects of long term youth unemployment are especially damaging. 
 
“As we emerge from the crisis, as our economy recovers and more jobs come on stream; investment in the Youth Guarantee - designed to ensure that any young person unemployed for four months or more is guaranteed a quality education, training or work experience place - makes sense and should be prioritised. All the evidence demonstrates it is not only socially just, but also economically prudent to do so.
“As young people were hardest hit by the recession, it is vital that they are not left behind as the wider economy recovers. We are calling on the Government to make work pay: to increase the minimum wage to a living wage, reform ‘in work’ income supports, and provide affordable, accessible childcare for working parents,” concluded Ms Cunningham.
 
ENDS
 
A Plan to End Poverty Among Children and Young People - A Detailed Analysis of the Issues can be found here.
 
A one page summary of the document is available here.
 
Spokespersons are available for interview.
 
For more information and interview requests please contact:
 
Michael McHale, Communications Officer, Start Strong:  087 413 5641 / michael@startstrong.ie
 
 
Notes to Editors
 
 
Child and Youth Poverty in numbers
 
1 child in every 9 lives in consistent poverty (over 134,000 children).
 
The latest figures from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) show that, in 2014, consistent poverty in Ireland affected 11.2% of the population.
 
Individuals living in households where there was one adult and one or more children aged under 18 had the highest consistent poverty rate at 22.1%. 
 
The at risk of poverty rate has rose from 17.9% in 2013 to 18.6% in 2014.
 
In the preceding years the rate of consistent poverty nearly doubled – from 6.8% in 2008 to 11.7% in 2013 (CSO).
 
Consistent poverty in Ireland is measured by incomes being below the at risk of poverty threshold and when someone cannot afford at least 2 of the 11 deprivation indicators – these include a warm waterproof overcoat, two pairs of strong shoes, and eat meat, chicken, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every second day.
 
Families with children lost 10 years of income progress between 2008 and 2012.