Child care

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1 Debates Child poverty and early intervention

Government policy on child poverty came under fire in the course of a Seanad debate on early intervention services for children (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 6th March 2013, 745-768).  Kathryn Reilly (SF, industrial & commercial) spoke of how although we now had a minister who understood the need for interventions to address child poverty, the government was implementing policies and budgets that increased the numbers of children in poverty.  270,000 children now lived in poverty and the previous day Barnardos, the National Women’s Council, OPEN and Start Strong had called for an additional investment of €2bn in child care for early development. We spent only 0.25% of GDP on pre-school education, compared to 1.3% in Denmark.  Our child poverty rate was 11.4%, compared to 5.4% in Denmark.  Whilst our higher level of poverty was not solely due to underinvestment in pre-school and early intervention, there was still a relationship between them.  


Jillian van Turnhout (ind, Taoiseach nominee) welcomed the support by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald for early intervention as ‘music to our ears’.   Referring to the new sites for locally-based initiatives against child poverty, she questioned the selection criteria.  How do we ensure, she asked, that the selection process was transparent and that projects were rooted in evidence and best practice?  Programmes might look good, but how did we ensure that they delivered the outcomes that were wanted?  Aideen Hayden (Lab, Taoiseach nominee) quoted Barnardos figures on the value of early intervention.  She urged the minister to be cautious in cutting youth service budgets, especially in disadvantaged areas, because ‘a little money went a long way’.  She cited figures from the Children’s Research Centre in Dublin University (Trinity College) which found that two out of three children in state care were homeless within two years of leaving care, showing that outcomes were critically dependant on quality of services.  


Sean Barrett (ind, Dublin University) commented that we were trying to do this in a country that was broke: where would we get the money to pay for this?  We must ask these kind of awkward questions, but it did not mean that we had formed a dislike for children or poor people.

> See also:

> Child benefit and child poverty: Dail Eireann, Debates, 5th March 2013, 5-6.

> Child poverty – proofing the 2014 budget: Dail Eireann, Debates, 5th March 2013, 139-140.