The Government has received an ‘F' grade for its treatment of children living in poverty.
The Children's Rights Alliance (CRA) has just published its annual Report Card, which every year grades the Government's performance on issues relating to children against its stated commitments in the 2011-2016 Programme for Government.
According to the 2015 Report Card, the recent recession has had a ‘devastating impact' on children and the Government is failing those living in poverty.
It awarded the Government an ‘F' grade in the area of child poverty, which is even lower than last year's dismal grade of ‘E-‘.
"The number of children experiencing consistent poverty has doubled since the beginning of the downturn in 2008. We can only conclude that children were, and continue to be, the real victims of the recession. In its last year in office, how will the Government respond to these children?" asked CRA chief executive, Tanya Ward.
She pointed out that throughout last year, families continued to struggle with ‘rising rent prices, utility bills, personal debt, homelessness and food poverty'.
"Although the Government introduced a small monthly increase in the Child Benefit payment for the first time in seven years, this was not enough. As we emerge from recession, the Government must place the wellbeing of children at the top of its agenda. We cannot continue to forget those children who are consistently left on the margins," she insisted.
She said that with the upturn in the economy and recent reductions in unemployment, the CRA is hopeful that child poverty figures will reduce in the coming years.
"However, for this to happen, the Government must uphold its international obligations and ensure children's rights are implemented to the fullest extent, even when resources are limited. The CRA is calling for the Government to publish an ambitious rights-based implementation plan to achieve the Child Poverty Target as a matter of urgency.
"In addition, each department should carry out a social impact assessment in advance of budgetary decisions, ensuring Budget 2016 is poverty-proofed so that, even in times of recession, children's rights are respected," Ms Ward said.
Overall, the Government was awarded a ‘C' grade for its treatment of children, which the CRA described as satisfactory, ‘but with scope for significant improvement'.
Two areas did receive ‘A' grades - school buildings and education on literacy.
"Child literacy receives an ‘A' grade in recognition of the first significant improvements in literacy and numeracy in primary schools in 30 years, resulting in the reaching of the targets set for 2020. Progress in the increase in new school buildings and the move away from prefabs across the country in 2014 resulted in the second ‘A' grade in this section," the CRA noted.
However, areas where improvements are urgently needed include homelessness, mental health and equality for Traveller and Roma children.
"The area of mental health receives an ‘E' grade, reflecting the continued and inappropriate and unnecessary use of adult inpatient facilities for children. Meanwhile, homelessness among families with children hit crisis levels in 2014, with an average of 40 families becoming homeless each month, up from 20 families per month in 2013," the alliance pointed out.
Speaking at the launch of the Report Card, CRA chairperson and CEO of St Patrick's Mental Health Services, Paul Gilligan, said that the fact that children are still being admitted to adult mental health inpatient units is ‘extremely disappointing'.
"The Irish State is failing children with mental health needs. This is not only a violation of these children's basic rights, but such practice will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for the children themselves, their families and society," he commented.
The 2015 Report Card can be viewed here
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