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Government fails Traveller, migrant children and those who are at risk of poverty

The Children’s Rights Alliance gave the government an overall ‘C’ grade in this year’s report card.

Image: Fail via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS received an overall ‘C’ grade in the Children’s Rights Alliance annual report card.

However, it failed the group’s tests when it came to Traveller and migrant children, receiving E and F grades respectively. It also performed poorly in terms of mental health services and child poverty.

The report card – the sixth issued by the Alliance – examines the government’s performance on issues and policies affecting children against their own stated commitments in the Programme for Government 2011 to 2016.

According to the results, the coalition has been “satisfactory” but there is “scope for significant improvement”.

Here are the results which led to the overall ‘C’.

  • Children’s Constitutional Rights: B
  • Early Childhood Care and Education: C+
  • Child Literacy: A-
  • Children with Special Educational Needs: C-
  • School Buildings: B+
  • Patronage and Pluralism in Primary Education: B+
  • Health – Primary Care: C
  • Mental Health: E
  • Alcohol and Drugs: D+
  • Children’s Hospital: C+
  • Child Poverty: E-
  • Area-based Childhood Programme: C+
  • Children and the Social Welfare System: D
  • Child and Family Agency: B+
  • Ryan Report Implementation Plan: B-
  • Youth Homelessness: C+
  • Children in Detention: B+
  • Traveller Children: E
  • Migrant Children: F
  • Inequalities in Family Life: D+

Explanation of Grades:
A: Excellent, making a real difference to children’s lives
B: Good effort, positive results for children
C: Satisfactory attempt, but children still left wanting
D: Barely acceptable performance, little or no positive impact on children
E: Unacceptable, taking steps in the wrong direction, no positive impact on children
F: Fail, taking steps that undermine children’s wellbeing

CEO of the Alliance, Tanya Ward, was positive about the impact a full Cabinet position has had on advancing the cause of children’s rights.

She noted that the government is “ambitious for children” and singled out Education for praise due to advancements in literacy, school buildings and patronage of primary schools.

“We also acknowledge headway with the newly established Child and Family Agency, ending the detention of children in St. Patrick’s institution and the construction of a new facility for young offenders at Oberstown,” she said.

“Notwithstanding this progress, we still see certain children being side-lined by the system or entirely ignored,” added Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay.

“Child poverty remains unacceptably high – 9.3 per cent of children currently live in consistent poverty and 18.8 per cent are at risk. Tackling poverty is a whole-of-government issue and is something that needs to be prioritised in order to see progress next year.”

Traveller children

Commenting on the F grade given in relation to Traveller children, Judge Catherine McGuinness explained that infant mortality rates among the group are 3.6 times greater than those in the general population.

“We are in danger of leaving Traveller children behind unless we include specific commitments in national policy,” she warned.

On another poor grade – relating to migrant children – she noted that more than 10 per cent of Ireland’s school-going children come from a non-Irish background. She called for an immediate end to the current Direct Provision system for asylum seekers.

“The Government has also broken its own promises regarding mental health, with €35 million in ring-fenced funding now standing at only €20 million,” concluded McGuinness.

Download the full report card here>

Read: How a doctor had his asylum request rejected because someone ‘didn’t like him’

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