Ireland’s most vulnerable children have been left behind by the Government, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance.
Photo credit: Ariel Clarke, 4; Romy O’Grady, 3; Andriy Sola Malinowsky, 3; and Mia Molloy, 4, outside Dail Eireann at the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance 2016 report card. Picture: Marc O’Sullivan
The Government was given an F grade for failing to address child and youth homelessness. Child poverty was awarded an E grade, a step-up from last year’s F, but still a fail.
The Government was graded on its progress on the implementation of commitments to children under the programme for government 2011-16.
While the report is published annually by the alliance, all of the grades are awarded by an independent panel of experts.
Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said it is the first time in eight years that the report has been issued while there is a hiatus in government. She said the incoming government must make children’s rights an urgent priority.
For the fourth consecutive year, the outgoing government received an overall C grade, reflecting some positive developments.
The alliance highlighted a number of key areas where the Government continued to fail the most marginalised groups.
Ms Ward described child poverty as a pressing issue that must be addressed. “One in nine children is now living in poverty and the number of homeless children rose by an incredible 90% in the past year alone,” she said.
The Government did publish a child-friendly budget for 2016, the alliance found, but the number of children experiencing homelessness was unacceptable.
“The current upturn in the economy must not prove to simply push the most vulnerable even further into the margins of society,” she said.
Key areas where improvements are needed include patronage and pluralism in education and the rights of Traveller, Roma, and migrant children.
“Once again, children found themselves unable to access their local primary schools because of their religion,” said Ms Ward.
The alliance said the grade for patronage and pluralism in primary education dropped to a D because of a sharp fall in momentum during the Government’s term of office.
One A grade appeared in the report card for the first time ever, in the area of right to equality and non-discrimination. It reflected a number of developments, including the amendment to the Constitution providing marriage equality for same-sex couples.
Other areas doing well include education, where the Government made consistent progress. Within this area, school buildings received an A grade, reflecting progress and a move away from prefabricated buildings.
Child literacy gained a B+ and early childhood care and education received an improved B- from last year’s D+ grade after investments promised in Budget 2016.
The rollout of free GP care to under-6s and the commitment to extend the scheme to under-12s saw a slight improvement in primary care, with a B- grade.
Progress made on the introduction of legislation to reduce alcohol consumption and introduce plain tobacco packaging earned the Government a B grade in the report.
Ms Ward said the next government should build on these positive developments, uphold international obligations, and make life better for all children.
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