PRESS RELEASE: Dedicated, Ambitious Action Plan needed to address rising rate of child poverty

Published date: 
8 Jun 2023

Press Release:

Dedicated, Ambitious Action Plan needed to address rising rate of child poverty

Today (08.06.2023) the Children’s Rights Alliance launches its Child Poverty Monitor 2023.The Child Poverty Monitor 2023 analyses the state of play for children and young people, tracking Government progress and action to address child poverty, and showcases best practice solutions in local communities.

Speaking to the research report, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said;
“Rising child poverty rates set the scene for our launch today. Over 236,000 children are experiencing poverty. To put that into context, that is more than the entire population of Kilkenny and Waterford combined for whom poverty is seeping into every aspect of their life. For these children, it can mean going to bed hungry several nights a week, sleeping in coats during the winter because the heating is off or going to school with shoes that are painfully too small. And it is children that are most vulnerable to living like this day in, day out. There are more children living in consistent poverty than any other age group in Ireland.”

“The longer a child spends in poverty, the lower their aspirations become, resulting in children growing up with a very poor self-concept. For very young children, their outcomes are determined before the age of three. If a child is growing up in poverty, without access to a home or nutritious food, with little or no opportunities to participate in school, sport or social activities, it becomes harder and harder for them to see how they will reach their full potential. But poverty is not inevitable. It is the result of political decisions.”

“Budget 2023 was a missed opportunity for the Government to deliver increased income payments for the poorest children and young people who are experiencing the most acute levels of deprivation and over the past year, we have seen the child poverty rates rise. All the evidence points to the power of intervention and investment early in a child’s life to break the cycle of poverty. If the Government is serious about making child poverty a political priority, then we need to see a dedicated national action plan that delivers the systemic change that is needed to reverse the tide,” continued Tanya Ward.

Key findings Child Poverty Monitor:

“Food Poverty is one area where the Government has stepped up to its responsibility to ensure no child goes to school hungry. Minister Humphries has committed to expanding the Hot School Meals Programme to all DEIS and special schools this year and we welcome the Government’s ambition to expand this programme to every child by 2030. However, there is currently a serious issue with the quality of the food in the school meals programme because the rates are too low. Currently funding provides €0.60 for breakfast or a snack and just €1.90 for dinner. In Budget 2024 we need to see the rates increase to ensure that the quality of the food can be improved in the face of rising costs.” said Tanya Ward.

Early Years
“Investing in early years is the most effective approach the Government can take to break the cycle of poverty. We still don’t have a DEIS type programme early years programme even though it’s the most important leveller”, continued Tanya Ward. “Last year we saw a significant investment in early years services bringing the total to €1 billion. While the investment is the scale we need to see, the focus now needs to move to introducing a DEIS type early years programme. When infants and small children are forced to live in poverty it has serious implications for the rest of their lives. They are immediately at a disadvantage when they start school. This just isn’t right.”

“For children and families experiencing poverty, the recent incremental increase to social welfare payments was simply not enough to help keep them afloat with rapid rises elsewhere due to the cost-of-living crisis. With last year’s budget, the Government increased the Qualified Child Increase – a payment made to families already dependent on social welfare by just €2 for all children. These increases did not keep up with the pace of inflation and as a result, families do not have enough money to deal with everyday basics. We know from work carried out by the Vincentian Research Centre that families dependent on social welfare with two children are short a staggering €93 per week.

This leaves families with impossible decisions between eating or heating, with many parents reporting going without in order to ensure their children have dinner that night or lights on to study for exams.

Income measures are not enough alone to turn the dial on poverty, but they cannot be ignored in Budget 2024. The cost of essentials such as milk and bread have increased by 19.7% and 15.5% respectively. The introduction of measures like free school books at primary school is a really important measure to help with the cost of living as it helps put money back in families' pockets. At the same time, targeting increases towards the families on the lowest income is critical now.”

“We are living through the worst housing and homelessness crisis modern Ireland has faced. Numbers continue to meet and exceed record figures every month and today, we have 3,594 children homeless. These are 3,594 children whose worlds have been turned upside-down or totally uprooted. Our greatest concern is that the urgency to respond to the crisis begins to dissipate the longer it goes on. The ending of the eviction ban pulled a rug out from beneath many families who are now desperately worried about where their children will sleep or how they will get them to school. The need to build affordable and accessible housing remains but the Government must now consider the detrimental impact this crisis is having on young children and put the necessary supports in place to attempt to minimise the long-lasting effects. We need to see the Government increase funding for dedicated child and family workers and resources scaled up to ensure that every child has access to wraparound supports designed to meet their unique needs. Homelessness blights childhoods but child support workers can help provide children and families direct support at the most difficult time in their lives.”

“Budget 2023 failed to deliver sufficiently for the poorest children and young people living under the weight of poverty. It is up to the Government to ensure that policy and investment decisions that are made now, will be effective enough and ambitious enough to lift children out of this cycle of disadvantage. That work can begin now by making Budget 2024 a children’s budget. However, it is crucial that this work continues beyond Budget through the new Child Poverty and Wellbeing Unit. The structure is now in place to make real traction on the target to reduce our child poverty rates but the Unit needs a dedicated, ambitious plan that steps up Government action to tackle the drivers of poverty. The plan needs to ensure it takes a multi-pronged approach to address child poverty, harnessing the learnings from the local, best practice initiatives that are delivering real and lasting change in children’s lives,” concluded Tanya Ward.


For media queries, contact Robyn Keleghan–087 1368975 / / or Emma Archbold – 087 997 1419 /

Notes to Editors:

  • Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, is available for interview.
  • Panel speakers are available for interview.
  • The Child Poverty Monitor 2023 is available to download here.

    Latest Child Poverty Figures:

  • 27,382 more children living in consistent poverty: The number of children living in consistent poverty rose from 5.2% in 2021, to 7.5% in 2022 (89,288 children, and the highest rate of consistent poverty by age cohort)
  • 34,525 more children experiencing deprivation in 2022: The number of children experiencing enforced deprivation rose from 17% in 2021, to 19.9% in 2022 (236,910 children, and the highest rate of consistent poverty by age cohort)
  • 19,048 more children at risk of poverty in 2022: The number of children at risk of poverty rose from 13.6% in 2021, to 15.2% in 2022 (180,956 children, and the second highest rate of consistent poverty by age cohort) Full SILC data set is 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 #ChildPovertyMonitor #ChildrensBudget24