One in five children in Ireland — some 230,000 of the country’s population — is living in a family with income below the poverty line, an issue that needs to be addressed by policy changes, according to an independent social justice think tank.
Social Justice Ireland has today published Poverty Focus 2019, in which it calls on the Government to address child poverty by acting on issues such as adequate adult welfare rates, decent pay and conditions for working parents, and an increase in child benefit and access to quality services.
Social Justice Ireland says child benefit “remains a key route to tackling child poverty”, and that decent rates of pay and conditions “are extremely important to support working parents”.
The think-tank says individuals working full time should be able to earn enough income to provide a decent standard of living for their families, but that many working families on low earnings struggle to achieve a basic standard of living.
It said making tax credits refundable is an “efficient and cost-effective solution to help working families on low earnings”.
Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said the scale of child poverty here in Ireland is “alarming and is simply unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours”.
“Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in society,” he said.
“Despite good intentions, child poverty is an issue that Irish society and public policy has made little progress in addressing for a long time.
“Eliminating child poverty should be a top priority for Government. It can be done, but it requires action now. More equality is better for everybody, including the economy,” he said.
Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst with Social Justice Ireland, said child poverty is essentially an issue of families struggling to survive on low incomes.
“Children cannot be lifted out of poverty unless their families are lifted out of poverty,” she said.
“Child poverty presents very serious policy challenges for us. Government can support low-income families by prioritising adequate adult welfare rates, decent pay and conditions for working parents, increased child benefit, and access to quality services,” said Ms Murphy.