Ireland’s leading children’s charity today branded the latest social partnership agreement a missed opportunity.
It is the second time in as many days the Government has come in for criticism over the deal from a major voluntary organisation.
Barnardos indicated the ten-year agreement had fallen short of its expectations on a number of key matters. In particular, it said the deal failed to:
:: set a minimum standard of living.
:: help families who can’t afford health care.
:: take measures to keep disadvantaged children in school longer.
:: implement a national school meals programme.
:: roll out a school books rental scheme.
“We have serious concerns in relation to the gaps we see in the current social partnership deal as they relate to children and families and the agreement looks like shaping up to be a missed opportunity,” said Barnardos Policy Officer, June Tinsley.
“While we welcome the provision for an additional 100 posts to the National Education and Welfare Board and the National Educational Psychological Service by 2009, there are a number of measures the Government could undertake to ensure that children from disadvantaged areas have a greater chance of staying in school.
“For example, rolling out of a national school meals scheme as well an extension of the School Books Rental scheme to all schools.
“Likewise there is no explicit commitment to ensuring a minimum standard of living for families living in poverty which means raising welfare rates to 30% of average industrial income.”
The agreement would make no difference to the health of many families in the state who can not afford medical care, according to Ms Tinsley.
“The take-up rate of the doctor-only medical cards has been very slow – of the 200,000 of these cards made available only 18,000 have been taken up.
“Yet the proposed agreement makes no mention of extending the full medical card to families who cannot afford medicines.
“Again while there is a commitment to review entitlement to the medical card, the fact is there are families who should be getting full medical care but cannot afford the GP-only card, not to mention private health insurance. Every day has the potential to be a medical emergency for them,” she said.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul yesterday said the agreement had a number of “key gaps”, including some of those highlighted by Barnardos.
It wanted to see more done on the welfare rate, medical card provision, social housing, early childhood care, domestic fuel and waste costs and more help for asylum seekers. The society is to formally consider the agreement at a meeting next month.