Children’s groups hit out at crushing cutbacks

It was a rollercoaster budget for children, with some highs and many crashing lows, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Chief executive Tanya Ward said crashing lows were the cuts to child benefit, and the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance.

“How is this in the best interests of children? Each cut on its own is detrimental, but accumulatively these cuts are devastating to families. In its eagerness to finance a dead banking system, the Government is killing our future,” said Ms Ward.

She said that while the savings from child benefit cuts in 2013 would be €135m, only €16.5m will be redirected into childcare places for low-income workers and targeted early childhood care and educational supports for disadvantaged areas.

“With a new child and family support agency to be established, it is surprising that the children and family services HSE budget has been cut by approximately €5m to €546m. In fact, it is an appalling move when the people of Ireland went to the trouble of voting to better protect children,” she said, referring to the children’s referendum last month.

“Already children and family services are carrying a deficit of over €50m. How can the Government fulfil its promises to children and families with an agency that is limping into existence?”

One of the budget highs was the small increase for the Department of Children, which will see funding increase from €401m to €438m next year.

Capital funding of €20.4m has also been made available for the redevelopment of Oberstown youth detention facility.

Barnardos said that despite the Government’s rhetoric, the budget was again disproportionately targeted on families on low incomes, pushing more into poverty.

The children’s charity said reform of child income support was needed but that a straight cut to child benefit, without looking at payments that support families on low incomes, was an attack on poor families.

The National Youth Council of Ireland said the €5.4m in cuts to youth services next year would hit the disadvantaged hardest.

Its director, Mary Cunningham, said there had been a 30% cut to youth service funding since 2008.

Meanwhile, the Carers’ Association said more than 100 family carers would protest outside the Dáil today demanding the full restoration of the “savage” 19% cut to the respite grant paid to more than 77,000 carers.

Inclusion Ireland said the cut in the grant would alienate carers. It urged the Government to reverse it.

Chief executive Paddy Connolly said a cut from €1,700 to €1,375 was an enormous reduction for families who already incurred significant additional disability related costs.

“The absence within Government of any knowledge of the real cost of disability to inform budget decisions means families of people with disabilities are feeling increasingly alienated by this Government.”

Mental Health Reform welcomed the commitment to community mental health in Budget 2013, including the announcement of an extra €35m for the continuing development of community mental health teams.

Director Orla Barry said the organisation welcomed confirmation that the additional funding was separate to the salaries for the 414 staff of community mental health teams committed to in last year’s budget.

“While we were disappointed by the delay in appointing the 414 community mental health staff in 2012, the news that 270 more staff will take up their posts next week is welcome.” she said.

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