Published date: 19 May 2024

Budget 2025 is this Government’s last opportunity to show they are serious about ending child poverty

Today (20.05.2024) the Children’s Rights Alliance launches its third Child Poverty Monitor. The Child Poverty Monitor 2024 analyses the state of play for children and young people in 2023, tracking Government progress and action to address child poverty. The Child Poverty Monitor is launched on the same day at the Government’s new Equal Start Programme which is designed to target infants and young children most in need.

Speaking to the research report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said:

“We are writing the future history of our country if we neglect those children most in need. We are condemning them to fail in the future. A brief experience of poverty is enough to have detrimental impacts on a child. Poverty pulls away the things that make up a decent and happy life – a safe home, regular meals, education, social activities – and pulls children back from opportunities to reach their full potential. The longer a child stays in poverty, the greater the impact on their life as they get older.”

“In 2023, 260,773 children experienced enforced deprivation. That is more than the population of Clare and Waterford combined. These are children that might go to bed hungry in a week or do not have clothes or shoes that fit for school. It is children and young people who shoulder the highest consistent poverty rates of any age cohort in the State. Considering we know there are solutions, there really is no excuse for this.”

“The figures of children in poverty are disappointingly still high. But 2023 did provide hope. The new Child Poverty and Wellbeing Office in the Department of the Taoiseach commenced its work. The hot school meals programme was expanded into more primary schools in Budget 2024 and free school books were introduced for the Junior Cycle in secondary school. These measures are important building blocks to ending child poverty. The Government also announced the commencement of a new Equal Start Programme for infants and young children which represents the single most important measure to change the life chances of children. The foundation has been laid, but it will take sustained leadership and investment across Government and all our political parties working together to help lift children out of poverty.”

Adequate Income

“The biggest gap in Government action for children in the last three years has been on income. Poverty starts with having enough money to buy everyday essentials. It is difficult to accept in a country as economically secure as ours that there are families living day by day, anxiously stretching their incomes paper thin just to afford the basics. Energy is pay as you go, food is bought on occasion, transport is paid per trip. Not having enough income is a core driver of poverty in this country and for years, the income supports provided have been insufficient to meet the cost-of-living pressures and far below what is required to actually be able to live a decent and happy life,” said Tanya Ward.

“Despite the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, Government has only raised the Qualified Child Increase (IQC) by €2 – barely been enough to afford a litre of milk. This payment is given to the families already in receipt of social welfare, who rely on these supports to keep their head above water. Not only do we need an increase to this targeted payment, but we need it to reflect reality. We know older children cost more – more food is needed, shoes are outgrown quicker, school is more expensive. We need to see this acknowledged in an increase of a minimum of €6 for children under 12, and €11 for over 12, so they are not left behind again in another budget cycle.”

Child Protection and Welfare 

“Tusla is dealing with a surge in child protection and welfare referrals. The numbers have actually doubled over a ten-year period, but particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic. Tusla simply does not have enough social work and social care workers to meet the demand nor enough residential placements. Budget 2025 will need to deliver funding for at least 200 social workers and social care workers and funding for capital so the agency can acquire enough residential facilities. These are the children most at risk in the country. They have to be prioritised in Budget 2025.”

Housing and Homelessness

“The other driver of poverty is the affordability of housing. We have record rates of child homelessness. In our analysis, pinpointing the root causes of poverty often leads back to the housing crisis. Child and family homelessness has increased year on year-on-year. But this cannot be something we accept will continue. Government investment in food, education, recreation are all welcome, but they are benefits that are near impossible to enjoy when your home is pulled from under you.”

“The need to build more affordable housing is undeniable but in the immediate future, the Government simply has to prioritise supports for the over 4,000 children who are homeless now, navigating a situation no child should be in. This includes ensuring every child has access to a child support worker and scaling up investment in homeless prevention services.”

“The housing crisis has indirectly disrupted access to other vital services for children living in poverty. There is a severe shortage of social workers, teachers, mental health professionals in areas where house prices and rents are too high. Without the frontline staff, these support services for children start to collapse.”

 Early Childhood Education and Care

“Breaking the cycle of poverty needs to start in the earliest years of a child’s life. Investing in early childhood education and care is the single most effective way for Government to address rising child poverty rates. The new Equal Start Programme which is to be launched today (20.05.2024) by the Government – ‘Equal Start’ has the potential to level the playing field for children in families that have to just through hoops and over hurdles to ensure their child has the same opportunity as others. For it to work, we need to see sizeable supports in Budget 2025 and an implementation plan that allows the new model to be agile enough to learn and respond to the unique needs of the children it supports. A model like this will change the life course of the young children of today.”

Food Poverty

“The Child Poverty Monitor acknowledges the substantial shift in political action to address child poverty and in particular food poverty and the cost of education. In recent years, we have seen two pilots expand to reach thousands of children and young people as a direct result of political decision and sustained investment. The Hot School Meals Programme guarantees at least one hot meal during the school day and for children in poverty, that could be the only real meal they get that day. Not only does it support their physical health and development, but children are better able to focus on their school work and engage in activities with their friends as a result of healthier eating. Budget 2024 investment will bring the programme to an additional 900 schools, benefitting a total of 320,000 students this year.”

“However, Budget 2025 needs to focus on holiday hunger. We are concerned with schools closed over the summer months, families won’t be able to cope, and children will miss meals. We’re asking government to look at the drivers of holiday hunger and put a pilot programme in place to address it.”


“The Free School Book Scheme has expanded from a pilot of 50 schools to every primary school and Junior Cycle students as of this year. Almost three quarters of a million students now have their school books and workbooks before they step inside a classroom. The scheme has lifted an enormous weight off families at a time when financial pressure is sky-high and we know from St Vincent de Paul that the scheme has resulted in less calls for help from families. Government is now primed to take the final step and expand the scheme to Senior Cycle to ensure this particular barrier is abolished for a child’s full journey through education. Freer school books are the norm throughout Europe. We need to make it the norm in Ireland as well.”

“We know that it is not right that in our society, 260,773 children are experiencing enforced deprivation. Families are being left with impossible decisions between eating, heating or keeping clean. The current government is at a critical juncture now to turn the tide on child poverty. Budget 2025 is its last opportunity to make this happen – it needs to be a Children’s Budget. They have made the foundational investment and built momentum behind big ticket items. Now it is time to move full tilt to deliver more effective targeted measures and income supports that work in tandem with universal measures to break the relentless cycle of poverty too many children are trapped in,” concluded Tanya Ward.




For media queries, contact Robyn Keleghan–0858001275 / [email protected] / or Emma Archbold – 087 997 1419 / [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

  • Children’s Rights Alliance spokespeople are available for interview.
  • Panel speakers are available for interview.
  • The Child Poverty Monitor 2024 is available to download here.
  • Latest Child Poverty Figures:
    • 31,682 more children experiencing deprivation in 2023: The number of children experiencing enforced deprivation rose from 18.8.% in 2022 to 21.4% in 2023 meaning more than 1 in 5 children in Ireland experienced deprivation. (260,773 children)
    • 26,809 less children living in consistent poverty in 2023: The number of children living in consistent poverty fell from 7% in 2022 to 4.8% which is largely due to the impact of the cost-of-living measures in 2023. However, it remains the highest of any age cohort. (58,491 children)
    • 4,874 less children at risk of poverty in 2023: The number of children at risk of poverty fell from 14.7 % in 2022 to 14.3% in 2023, the highest rate of any age cohort. (174,255 children) Full SILC data set is available here.


About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 150 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL #ChildPovertyMonitor #ChildrensBudget25

For media queries, please contact:

Emma Archbold

Campaigns and Communications Director