Children’s Rights Alliance presents 73 recommendations to the UN on Ireland’s record on children’s rights
Today, the Children’s Rights Alliance publishes Are We There Yet?, its alternative report on Ireland’s record on children’s rights ahead of next week’s examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Are We There Yet?, was submitted to the UN Committee in August 2022 and details 73 recommendations to the UN that highlight the need for urgent and significant Government action.
Speaking to the recommendations in the report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said:
“This UN examination comes at a tumultuous time for Ireland. We have grappled with a global pandemic for over two years, families are bearing the weight of a cost-of-living crisis and we continue to navigate recent political development, including Brexit and its implications on the rights of children and young people across the island of Ireland. Looking back on the years since the UN last examined Ireland, these new challenges create the perfect storm, exacerbating issues that already persisted in our society and building enormous barriers for children and young people. The government’s commitment to children’s rights and action to realise those rights, is now more important than ever before.”
Progress since 2016 Examination
"Since the last UN Committee examination, Ireland has led the way for empowering young voices and embedding youth participation in political decision-making, facilitating the younger generation to be an active part in changes they want to see through the establishment of Hub na nÓg. Successive strategies have set wheels in motion for protecting children’s rights from early years to young adulthood including First 5, an ambitious ten-year strategy employing a whole of government approach to improve the lives of babies and young children; a world-first LGBT Youth Strategy, developed in consultation with young people, to improve the lives of LGBT young people in Ireland,” said Tanya Ward.
“We have also witnessed unprecedented investment in children in our national budgets. In Budget 2023, increases in funding brought the total investment in early childhood education and care to over €1 billion. In the past seven years we have also seen investment in the provision of hot school meals, free schoolbooks to all primary school children, free GP care to support early access to healthcare for children under seven years old.”
“The retention of a Department and Minister with responsibility for children and young people over this time is to be welcomed and demonstrates the importance placed on improving the lives of children and young people. The youth-led and youth-focused strategies developed in recent years is testament to this,” continued Tanya Ward. “The necessary strategies and structures are in place to position Ireland to be a leader in the children’s rights space, but what we need to see now is action, particularly for more vulnerable groups of children and young people.”
Key Recommendations to consider
“The examinations are our opportunity to weigh up if we are delivering for children and young people and our report states that the government is simply not doing enough on key issues. As part of this report, we hear directly from young people and parents on how persistent issues pertaining to children’s rights impact their lives and, in some cases, irrevocably change it,” Tanya Ward continued.
“The ambition to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child won’t be realised while so many have limited or no access to basic services like healthcare, education and housing. The reality is, that for all the progress we have made in recent years, there are children and young people in Ireland who experience discrimination and disadvantage. Traveller and Roma children are overrepresented in the homelessness figures, they experience alarmingly levels of discrimination and racism, and have the highest rates of suicide and mental health issues of all young people. In our last parallel report, we raised concerns about the rise in child homelessness with 1,500 children living in emergency accommodation. Today, that number has more than doubled. We need to see the Government scale up efforts to address the housing and homelessness crisis to ensure the number of children being impacted does not continue to rise year on year.”
“There are thousands of children living in direct provision, some for far longer than they should be. These children are at a higher risk of consistent poverty but are not considered in official poverty statistics. In the crunch of the worst cost of living crisis, children in direct provision were given absolutely nothing in Budget 2023. Child benefit payments were doubled to help support families to make ends meet, particularly during the winter months, but children in direct provision are not eligible to receive such support. In fact, the first increase to the weekly allowance for families in direct provision followed the last UN examination, and it was the first increase in sixteen years,” said Tanya Ward.
“These children cannot afford, and should not be expected, to wait another sixteen years just to be put on equal footing. Worryingly now, the standards are deteriorating for children living in direct provision centres. The Government has the means to deliver on a qualified child increase like the child benefit payment, so why are children and young people still waiting for this commitment to be honoured?”
“In 2016, the UN Committee called on Ireland to improve its mental healthcare services, particularly in the areas of in-patient treatment and out-of-hours facilities but many CAMHS services only open 9am – 5pm and even with that, thousands of children are waiting for their first appointment. In 2022, the Maskey Report revealed serious clinical and governing failings in a service in South Kerry. With the system at breaking point, it is essential that the needs of some of the most vulnerable children in our society are prioritised.”
“Children with special educational needs face an uphill battle in Ireland. For a country renowned for its educational attainment levels, so many children and young people are side-lined by the mainstream education system. The stories included in our report help lift the lid on some of the most egregious breaches of a child’s right to education and speak to the need for systemic change in Ireland’s provision of education to meet the needs of every child. A one-size-fits-all model will not suffice. We urge the UN Committee to put forward recommendations that seek to bring changes that young people and families have waited far too long to see happen.”
“We are a decade on from the passing of the Children’s Referendum which embedded the voice of the child in our constitution. It is high time for our political leaders and decision makers to listen to it. Unprecedented and unravelling international crises present further difficulties in addressing the persistent issues for children documented in our report. However, given these external threats to children’s rights, it is more important now than ever before that the Irish Government honour their commitment to the Convention and deliver changes we need to see for young people today,” concluded Tanya Ward.
Contact: Emma Archbold, email@example.com / 0879971410
Notes to Editors:
● Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children's Rights Alliance is available for interview.
● Video participants in the report may also be available on request for media interviews.
● Are We There Yet? is available to read or download here.
● The State will be examined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 of January.
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 #AreWeThereYet