Children’s rights improving but action required on housing 'national emergency': CRA

The Government’s overall performance in providing for the country’s children is improving, but the Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) says it is still failing miserably to deal with the “national emergency” of the housing crisis.

The CRA’s annual report card, which grades the Government’s performance over the past year against commitments it has made with regard to children’s rights and services, found that in 2017 the Government warranted a C- — an improvement on the D+ given to it in the 2016 report card.

The Government’s performance resulted in improved grades in four of the six headline categories. Of 18 sub-categories, the Government was deemed to have fared better in 11 last year than in 2016, while its performance slipped in six categories and remained static in another.

That last category is ‘Child and Family Homelessness’, for which the Government received an E for the second year in a row. It was also the lowest grade for any of the 18 areas scrutinised by the CRA and its independent panel.

Launching the latest report card, CRA chief executive Tanya Ward said the crisis was a “national emergency”.

“The E grade reflects the fact that, despite efforts by the Government to address the issue of child homelessness, it failed to meet its own deadline of mid-2017 to end the use of unsuitable long-term emergency accommodation for families,” she said.

“The rollout of family hubs has improved the situation for some children, but further investment in social and affordable housing is needed or the housing crisis will continue.”

The Government’s performance also slipped in the areas of ‘Parental Leave and Income Supports’ and under ‘Prevention and Early Intervention’. Its overall grade under ‘Rights in Early Childhood’ fell from a C+ in 2016 to a D+ last year, fueled by poorer performance under the headings of ‘Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care’, ‘Subsidised and School-Age Childcare’, and ‘Childminding’.

The Government’s performance was most improved under ‘Rights in the Family Environment and Alternative Care’, jumping from a D+ in 2016 to a B- last year, driven by improvements in the guardian ad litem service, child protection and supporting child victims of crime.

The Government received a C grade for ‘Education’, although the CRA said more progress was needed in areas such as religious diversity in schools, while a C- was awarded for ‘Health’, a mix of improvements in primary care and mental health and slippage under ‘Physical Health and Wellbeing’. The report said there was little evidence of progress towards the phased extension of free GP care to all children and noted the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill has not yet been enacted.

In the foreword to the 10th such CRA report, Ms Ward said: “Ireland continues to make important strides towards implementing children’s rights. But far too many are still left behind.”

Read the report here

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone

Must try harder

The sharpest criticism in Report Card 2018 is reserved for the Government response to the housing crisis, with the report arguing it “reflects the failure of the policy approach adopted over several decades in relation to meeting social housing needs”.

Elsewhere, there are other shortcomings, many referred to directly by speakers atthe Report Card launch.

For example, 122 of an estimated 22,000 paid childminders are Tusla registered.

Four out of five people waiting for psychologist appointments are under-15s.

There were calls for new legislation for child victims of crime to be implemented. The Report card also references slower progress in addressing sexual and domestic violence.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone addressed some points directly, tweeting that the Government’s ‘Early Years Strategy’ will be published in the autumn, and a report from an expert group on childminding will be published shortly.

Ms Zappone also said the number of people on School Completion Programmes will increase as the new Deis plan is implemented.

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