This is devastating.
According to the Children’s Rights Alliance, more than 160,000 children and young people across Ireland are now at-risk of being pulled into poverty.
These are staggering numbers, and as the cost of living increases, this crisis is only set to get worse before it can even begin to get better.
To try to highlight the issue, the Children’s Rights Alliance is now set to launch a new Child Poverty Monitor, the first in a series of reports that will analyse the complexity of child poverty across the country.
To start off, the group is calling on the Government to raise the Qualified Child Increase by a minimum of €7 for the under-12s, and a minimum of €12 for over-12s, in the upcoming budget.
The group would also like to see core social welfare rates being increased by a minimum of €20 for all households with children.
As well as this, to combat the issue of children going hungry or being malnourished, the Children’s Rights Alliance also wants to see the Hot School Meals Programme expanded nationally.
Urgently, they state that a pilot initiative for the expansion of school meals should now happen during holiday time, as there is a real risk of many children going hungry over the school holidays, as they no longer have access to the meals they get in school daily during term.
Back-to-school costs needs to be addressed too
In an interview with Newstalk radio, the alliance says back-to-school costs are an immediate concern for many families right now, and they also want to point out the increased risk to children growing up in one-parent families, as they are currently “more than four times more at risk of consistent poverty” than those in two-parent families.
“To ensure equality between different household types and to increase the income of one parent families in work, reduce the Working Family Payment weekly work threshold from 19 hours to 15 hours for one parent families”, says Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.
“The ESRI warned early on that the pandemic could cause a rise in child poverty. Our Child Poverty Monitor analysis shows that the issues for children and young people are indeed starting to worsen – growing waiting lists for key health services and mental health supports, barriers to access education and increased need for social housing.”
“The cost of heating your home or your weekly food shop are all rising. The trends are going in the wrong direction, the Government’s response cannot. As we launch this report, there are thousands of children going without what we all consider to be basic essentials.”
Families, she says, are now borrowing to scrape together enough money to send their children back to school.
“We need our leaders to make child poverty a political priority,” Ward says.
“This will require new, ambitious thinking and commitment to cross-departmental work – as the monitor emphasises, none of these issues exists or is experienced in isolation. Child poverty is not inevitable, it is the result of political choices.”