Published date: 10 Sep 2023

Education investment is key to break cycle of poverty in Budget 2024


On the first day of its End Child Poverty Week (11.09.2023), the Children’s Rights Alliance is calling on Government to make substantial investments in education.

“Poverty is not inevitable. We have seen how policy decisions, and the right political action, can transform children and young people’s lives for the better. While the DEIS Programme has been hugely successful, too many children aren’t reaching their full potential in education,” says Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

Half of all children in poverty are not in DEIS schools and services aimed at early school leavers are struggling to cope. Tanya Ward says: “Children from low-income families should have the same opportunities as their peers – they shouldn’t have to fight every step of the way to get the education so many of us take for granted. The Government has started to grapple with the cost of education but addressing inequality will require thinking beyond cost to the care and support we can provide children facing a multitude of challenges.”

The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling for a Children’s Budget that:

Makes School Books Free at Second Level

The burden that school costs places on low-income families is immense. The average cost of the basic needs for a fourth-class pupil is €320. This sharply increases for secondary school students with the average cost for a first-year pupil at €972. Last year’s budget went further than any before in education, providing free school books to all primary school students. This momentum needs to continue this year, with an investment to expand the scheme to second level students (at an estimated cost of €70 million).

Properly Staffs Up our Education Welfare Service

Our education welfare service (TESS) ensures that every child attend school regularly or is otherwise able to maintain their right to a minimum education. Yet TESS only has 120 Education Welfare Officers to work with thousands of children and education staff across Ireland’s 4,000+ schools. This is unacceptable. Budget 2024 needs to create an extra 90 Education Welfare Officers to ensure that every child needing TESS can get an adequate service. Children living in poverty can be vulnerable to dropping out or parents can struggle to access a school place. We pride ourselves on our education system in Ireland but an under-resourced education welfare service leaves behind the very child who needs support the most. This simply isn’t good enough in a country pledging to end child poverty.

Helps children and schools outside the DEIS programme

Half of children living in poverty are in non-DEIS schools and largely have no access to DEIS school supports. This is hugely frustrating for schools outside of DEIS and their staff who work tirelessly but struggle to support children experiencing severe economic hardship, including huge life events such as homelessness.

The Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Scheme allows a teacher from a child’s school (without other teaching responsibilities) to provide support through home visits, parent classes/courses (recreational and educational), transition programmes and supports for struggling families. It is a vital service to DEIS schools and has only been recently extended on a pilot basis to some schools working with Traveller children. But principals from non-DEIS schools have complained to the Alliance that, without a HSCL coordinator, other teachers are having to take on the extra responsibility, which puts them under undue strain and means they have less time to prepare their lessons. This naturally leads to a knock-on effect for other pupils’ education.

Budget 2024 needs to push this service much further to reach very vulnerable children and families in schools who simply fall outside of DEIS status.

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance continues:

“Education can be a child’s key to unlocking a world of opportunity and potential. However, for children and young people in poverty, they often face barrier after barrier when it comes to accessing education. Persistent inequality can trap children in a cycle of poverty that can follow them into adulthood. The latest figures show almost 5,000 ‘early school leavers’, with children and young people from DEIS schools are more likely to leave school early. We need to be mindful that, for those children and young people who leave school with a primary education only, they have more than a one in four chance of living in poverty than their counterparts who go on to third level education.

Families are facing serious difficulty accessing an EWO because the staff are just not there. Families are in real distress because their child can’t get into school or, there’s a risk they might leave school early or be expelled. We know the transformational impact one good adult can have on a child’s education. Home School Liaison Officers and EWOs are these people for so many children but we know from our Helpline that there are not enough in post to support every child experiencing poverty. With this budget, Government can decide to break the cycle of inequality many families know too well, by investing in these supports and solutions that can fundamentally change a child’s experience of education.”



For media queries, please contact:

Aileen Gaskin: [email protected] / 087 7724 717, Sarah Dunne: [email protected] / 085 853 5647

Notes to Editors: 

  • Children’s Rights Alliance spokespeople, Tanya Ward and Julie Ahern are available for media interview; other speakers available upon request.
  • This event is online via Zoom on Monday 11 September, between 10.30am and 12.30pm. Tuen in online here. Keynote speakers: Senator Eileen Flynn, Prof Paul Downes (Dublin City University).
  • Bernie McNally, Secretary General of the Department of Education, will provide a special address via video.
  • The Education (Welfare) Act of 2000 promotes school attendance, participation, and retention, forming the foundation of the Tusla Education Support Services’ (TESS) mandate.
  • There are currently 530 Whole-Time-Equivalent (WTE) posts carrying out HCSL duties supporting 207,000 pupils. The Alliance is calling for HSCL supports to be expanded to non-DEIS schools, potentially appointing a coordinator to a cluster of non-DEIS schools to maximise impact.
  • The Children’s Rights Alliance Pre Budget Submission, published in June 2023, is available here.
  • The Children’s Rights Alliance Child Poverty Monitor 2023 is available here (pp.63-85 on education)
  • For Back to School costs see Barnardos’ Survey 2023 here.
  • End Child Poverty Week is supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland, The Fidelis Foundation and the Katharine Howard Foundation. The week-long series of events focuses on five thematic areas of child poverty, the root causes and the best practice solutions needed to break the cycle of poverty for children and young people. Details of the other events are available here.

About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 145 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 #EndChildPovertyWeek #ChildrensBudget24

For media queries, please contact:

Emma Archbold

Campaigns and Communications Director