Fine Gael has been accused of failing children, with 92,000 young people now living in consistent poverty and 4,000 in emergency homeless accommodation.
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has indicated that the Government’s own target for next year, to lift 55,000 children out of poverty, would not be met.
It will be both a “challenge and a priority,”said Ms Doherty said.
Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea said children are now “bearing the brunt” of the Government’s failure to tackle the issue, adding that it is now “very unlikely” that the 2020 target will be achieved.
“Children are bearing the brunt of Fine Gael’s policy failures,” said Mr O’Dea.
“Tens of thousands of children are living in consistent poverty and almost 4,000 children will spend this Christmas in emergency accommodation.
The Taoiseach talked about creating a republic of opportunity, when he came into office, and it is apparent that this is just another commitment that the Fine Gael-led government has not delivered on.
By 2020, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, published in 2014, aims to reduce by two-thirds the number of children who were in consistent poverty in 2011.
In 2011, the consistent poverty rate for children was 9.3%, equating to roughly 107,000 children. While this has decreased to 7.7%, the 2018 figures show that 92,000 children are still impacted by poverty.
“Whilst rates of poverty and deprivation are moving in the right direction, progress has been modest and does not reflect the pace of economic growth,” said Mr O’Dea. This, in itself, is evidence that a two-tier society still very much exists in Ireland.
“The situation has not been helped by Minister Regina Doherty’s failure to publish a new social inclusion strategy.
“This was promised in 2018, and as 2019 comes to a close, the minister has not published the plan, despite repeated calls from myself and NGOs to do so.”
Ms Doherty said the Government have introduced a number of measures that have had, and will continue to have, a direct and positive impact on child poverty.
Ms Doherty said that maximum weekly welfare payments have been raised by €15 per week since Budget 2017 and there have been increases in the income thresholds for the working family payment, as well as earnings disregards for one-parent family and for jobseeker transition payments.
However, Ms Doherty said that it can take “some time” to see the full impact of such measures.
Responding to a parliamentary question from Mr O’Dea, the minister said: “I will continue to work with my government colleagues to ensure that the economic recovery is experienced in all regions, and by all families, households, and individuals.”