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This week’s Unicef report reveals shocking and frankly shameful data for Ireland. We knew that during the recession the number of children living in poverty increased, but this report shows just how huge a step backwards we have taken.
Ireland’s children have lost a full decade of progress (only Greece is worse at 14 years).
The increase in the rate of children living in income poverty, from 18% in 2008 to 28.6% in 2012, puts Ireland in the bottom five worst countries. And tellingly, the family experience of poverty and poverty-related stress is also worse here than nearly everywhere else.
What is so concerning about this report is that despite clear indications this would happen, we still allowed ourselves to follow this path. And it was not inevitable. Unicef’s report shows other countries have managed to improve and reverse child poverty figures despite the recession.
We cannot but heed this latest dire warning. Decisive steps to reverse this trend must be taken as quickly as possible. We must build on the Budget 2015 pledges and invest in public services that benefit children, in particular health services. We must improve access to quality early childhood care and education and continue to invest in child benefit as a universal payment (alongside robust public services) proven to be best approach to tackle child poverty.
Children only get one childhood and that so many in Ireland have had theirs blighted is an indelible stain on our conscience.
Christchurch Square Dublin
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