Charity: Child inequality like playing snakes and ladders

A leading children’s charity has used the popular game of snakes and ladders to show the devastating effects of the rise in child inequality.

Research by Barnardos as part of its Rise Up campaign to end child inequality reveals endemic societal inequalities that limit children from achieving their potential.

Barnardos head of advocacy June Tinsley said the Government has an opportunity in the budget next month to tackle the rise in child inequality.

“It may sound flippant but our conversations with young people show us it’s not far from the truth to compare a child’s outcomes being determined by a system similar to a game of snakes and ladders,” Ms Tinsley said.

“The lucky ones born to well-off, highly educated, healthy parents are much more likely to jump up the ladders and thrive.

“Conversely those children born to low-income families or ones struggling with their health are much more likely to face additional barriers and, effectively, slide down the snakes.”

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said children know education is crucial for achieving their life goals and that sport helps build self-confidence and fitness levels.

“But too many of them are being denied these opportunities,” Mr Finlay said.

The survey of 500 people aged 11 to 17, conducted in July, found that one in four children from less well-off families feel less understood by their teachers than those from wealthier households.

Mr Finlay said the impact of the housing crisis was also clear, with two in five large households (six or more family members) living in a three-bed house.

He found it particularly humbling when children described what they would do if they were Taoiseach for a day.

“Provide free third-level education for any child that wanted to study in third level. It costs €13,000 to go to college from the West of Ireland. Not every family can afford it,” said one child.

“Give parents enough money to buy food and clothes for their children,” another said.

The research found that children from low-income homes were 20% less happy to ask questions in school.

And just half of children from low-income homes get help with their homework, compared to two-thirds of those from well-off homes.

Nearly nine in 10 children from well-off homes believe they will go to university compared to three quarters of those from low-income families.

Mr Finlay said the centenary commemoration of the Easter Rising provides the perfect opportunity to end child inequality. He called for urgent action from all politicians to to ensure that all children are, in fact, being cherished equally.

“As we head towards 2016 we not only have the perfect opportunity to end this inequality but also the knowledge of how to do it and, post-recession, the resources to do so.”

The chief executive and founder of Future Voices, Máiréad Healy, said the organisation works with young people who have fallen through the cracks through no fault of their own.

“Every day we are bowled over by the bright, engaged young people we work with and what they have — and want — to offer society. They must be given the opportunity to do so,” Ms Healy said.

Barnardos has published a five-point action plan to end child inequality in its Rise Up For Children manifesto.


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