“Cross-departmental action can be the political catalyst needed to end child food poverty” – Children’s Rights Alliance
Today (13.09.2022), the Children’ Rights Alliance holds its second event of End Child Poverty Week, focused on the issue of food poverty. At the event at Crosscare Youth Service in Finglas, panellists spoke to emerging issues of ‘holiday hunger’, the positive impact of food poverty initiatives and the need for long-term thinking needed to drive the level of food poverty down.
Speaking at the event, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, stated:
“Right now, there are many families across the country who have had a sleepless night, worried about how they will afford their children’s next meal. There are many parents going without themselves to ensure there is food on the table. And devastatingly, there are children who have gone to school today hungry.
Food poverty is a very real problem in this country, with the latest estimates show almost 9% of people were living in food poverty. To put that to scale, that almost half a million people, with even more now being pulled closer to the breadline due to the perfect storm of cost-of-living pressures. We are already playing catch up to the impact the pandemic has had on children and young people, we cannot fall further behind in progress to make sure every child has the very basics for a decent standard of living. The Hot School Meals Programme is a key intervention in breaking the cycle of poverty by guaranteeing access to at least one hot meal every day. We welcomed the efforts by Government to expand the programme in Budget 2022 particularly to DEIS schools who previously applied. However, we need to see successive budgets driving the expansion of the programme further to reach every child. Food poverty exists beyond DEIS schools and the need for support is only increasing.”
“Our members are inundated with calls for help, many of whom are calling for the first time. And we know that for children and families already struggling to keep afloat, the last few years have only further exacerbated their difficulties. As we face into a harsh winter, and schools close for mid-terms and Christmas holidays, we are very concerned about the children and families who rely on school for a hot meal. With a very pressing need for action now given the cost-of-living crisis, there is an opportunity for Government to invest in developing a long-term solutions to childhood and holiday hunger,” said Tanya Ward.
On behalf of Crosscare, Yvonne Fleming said:
“The Breakfast Club initiative was very welcome. It supported children throughout the summer months, providing nutritious food at the start of each day.” Crosscare has established a new Food Poverty Service where caseworkers work directly with families experiencing food poverty to achieve sustainable long-term outcomes. Caseworkers meet with them and, as well as giving food support, offer help with budgeting, debt restructuring, access to social welfare, mental health services and other supports. Almost 600 families and individuals, including 800 children, have already come forward to the service, and demand continues to grow.
The Children’s Rights Alliance is calling for Budget 2023 to put children and young people first with targeted measures and, investment in expanding and properly resourcing universal measures. On food poverty:
- The positive impact the Hot School Meals Programme is clear when we listen to the schools currently running it. Prioritising DEIS schools has enabled Government to reach children most in need however, food poverty is impacting children and families outside of DEIS zones. The Government needs to extend the Hot School Meals Programme to all schools participating in the existing cold school meals programme and set out a roadmap with a clear timeline for how the scheme can be expanded to all schools within the lifetime of this Government.
- We have seen the positive impact of early years, youth and community services food poverty initiatives in addressing food poverty during school closures. To address the issue of holiday hunger, Government needs to fund and develop a pilot initiative for the expansion of school meals during holiday time by leveraging existing community infrastructure and relationships between schools and summer camps.
“The impact food poverty has on a child’s physical health and development is an immediate concern, but it can also have a hugely disruptive impact on a child’s education as well as their mental health and wellbeing. Cross-departmental is not simply best-practice but critical to develop long-term solutions,” said Tanya Ward. “It can be the political catalyst that is need to transform the lives of children across the country.”
Addressing the event, Minister of State Joe O’Brien stated:
“As Minister of State with responsibility for social inclusion in the Department of Social Protection, I am determined to continue working to address all forms of poverty and addressing child poverty, in particular, is a Government priority. Poverty, even if experienced for only a short period of time, can be hugely damaging. It can fundamentally alter a person’s life trajectory and far too often we see it become inter-generational – consigning families to a life of social exclusion, disadvantage and stolen opportunities that is why as part of the Budget 2023 process I am focusing particularly on advocating for increases to the Working Family Payment and increases to payment rates for the Qualified Child payments alongside core rate increases.”
Notes to Editors:
• Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for media interviews.
• Other spokespeople are available on request
• End Child Poverty Week is supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland and The Fidelis 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.
• The Children’s Rights Alliance Pre Budget Submission is available here.
• The Children’s Rights Alliance Child Poverty Monitor 2022 is available here.
About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 140 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL.#EndChildPovertyWeek