Major Child Poverty Conference Calls for Joint Action
A major child poverty conference today (Friday 24 June), supported by Eurochild and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and coordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance, will call on delegates from across the NGO, public and private sectors to join forces in order to successfully meet the Government’s target of eliminating consistent poverty by 2020. One in ten children is growing up in consistent poverty in Ireland: going to school hungry, no warm coat in winter and not even having a square meal every other day.
This noteworthy conference takes place one day after the ‘Brexit’ referendum and as such, is likely to be punctuated by the far-reaching implications of that vote on future generations of children in Ireland. In this context, questions will no doubt arise on the extent to which child poverty in Ireland is dependent on other EU members.
The Children’s Rights Alliance says that the Government commitment on this issue is strong, evidenced by the attendance of two Government Ministers at the Dublin conference, including Minister for Social Protection, Dr. Leo Varadkar TD and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD. Also speaking will be The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole, a range of expert international speakers, a panel of young people from Future Voices Ireland and the National Youth Council of Ireland, as well as over 100 delegates.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said today: “Child poverty is a blight on this country that is preventing children from meeting their full potential, draining families of spirit and hope and, ultimately, holding the country back. We know from other countries that the answer to child poverty is better services for children and families. The Government has worked hard to address child poverty through income supplements but this is simply not enough. We need a Government-wide approach and steps are already underway with the development of a practical action plan. We need to move swiftly to finalise this plan so all actors can play their part.
We all recognise this, and I know that there is commitment from all of us to move beyond rhetoric and to meet the targets, such as those set out by Government in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures. I’m confident that we will meet those targets, as we have not one but two Ministers in the room today, speaking to you - over 100 delegates - who, I know, will work hard today to translate these policies into effective and practical interventions.”
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone TD, said: “No child in this country should go hungry, live without a roof over their head or be locked up in an adult prison. As Minister, I am committed to meet this challenge by working with young people, parents, front-line agencies and colleagues in Government. Today’s Children’s Rights Alliance conference is an important opportunity to advance that work.”
Minister for Social Protection, Dr. Leo Varadkar TD, said: "Today, Ireland is a better place for children to grow up than it was for any preceding generation. But it does not reflect well on us that in a wealthy country in the 21st century we have to have a conference on child poverty at all. The new Government is committed to reducing and eventually eliminating child poverty. Dealing with child poverty is about much more than income supports and welfare payment though these play an important role and will continue to do so. It’s increasingly about supporting jobless families to break into the workforce and improving access to services like health, childcare, education and of course decent housing. That’s why is requires a cross-government and whole of society approach"
Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General of Eurochild, said: “Ireland has one of the highest levels of child poverty in Europe. We welcome that the Irish government has made this a political priority and is committed to developing and implementing an ambitious but realistic action plan accompanied by targets and monitoring. The EU offers fertile ground for countries to learn from one another. EU policy guidance and structural and investment funds can add valuable support to national efforts.”
This conference will seek to breathe life into important commitments on child poverty and to translate them into reality to improve children’s lives. Commitments under discussion will include national and EU targets to reduce the level of children living in consistent poverty, as promised in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020, Europe 2020 and the European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children.
Watch video address by Minister Jetta Klijnsma, Dutch State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment announcing the recent European Council conclusions on ‘Combating poverty and social exclusion’ here