Barnardos supported almost 18,000 children and families last year - its highest number on record.
The charity, which works with vulnerable children who are affected by adverse childhood experiences, has just published its 2018 Annual Report. It shows that 17,799 children and families were supported across Barnardos' 41 centres last year.
Of those receiving help, over 11,600 were children and 30% of these were under the age of five. Some 49% were aged between six and 12.
The charity also helped over 4,100 parents and carers, such as grandparents.
Barnardos aims to help children by focusing on their social, emotional, physical and educational development. It does this by working directly with them, and also with schools and communities. The charity also helps parents to strengthen their parenting skills so that they are better able to meet the needs of their children.
Services offered include family support programmes, breakfast clubs, friendship groups, teen parent support and a bereavement service.
"Last year, we saw a 16% increase in demand for our services and our waiting lists continue to grow year-on-year. Our team is working hard to ensure we can deliver services to those who need them the most, but waiting lists for our services keep growing and the gap between the demand and the funding provided by the Government continues to widen," explained Barnardos CEO, Suzanne Connolly.
The charity is appealing to the Government to increase its funding in Budget 2020. Its current annual funding shortfall is €8 million and this money has to be raised by Barnardos via fundraising efforts.
More funding is particularly essential this year as the charity has announced a new strategic direction, committing itself to becoming a trauma informed organisation that helps children and their families to build resilience and overcome the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
"We are committed to evolving our services and our policy work to focus on the impact of adverse childhood experiences, driven by the stark connection between such experiences in childhood and poor adult health and wellbeing.
"Barnardos believes that what happens to us as children shapes the adults we become. It is because of this we have decided to work in a trauma informed way, to help those affected by these adversities, to strengthen families and give children the best possible outcomes in life," Ms Connolly noted.
Adverse childhood experiences describe difficult or stressful events experienced in childhood, such as neglect, emotional and physical abuse, separation, bereavement, parental mental health problems and parental substance abuse.
Exposure to these can affect a child's ability to think, learn and interact with others. It can have a long-term impact on their health and happiness.
"This new direction brings a holistic mind, body and heart approach to our work based on recent developments in the understanding of human development and how the brain works, and builds on Barnardos' approach to delivering essential services for some of the most vulnerable in our society," Ms Connolly said.
The Barnardos 2018 Annual Report can be viewed here.
Meanwhile, Barnardos is calling on the public to support its national collection day on Friday, September 13. Over 2,000 volunteers will be taking to the streets with collecting buckets, with all funds raised going directly into services.
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