Tight Brexit Budget still includes important steps to reduce child poverty
Speaking in response to today’s Budget announcement, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward focuses in on specific measures in Budget 2020 that will help lift children and families out of poverty:
“Budget 2020 is about families on the breadline that will be the hardest hit by Brexit. Lone parents bore the brunt of the last recession with the result that thousands of children have spent their childhood in deprivation. As a society, we cannot stand by and watch that happen again. We are relieved to see that hard-pressed, working lone parents will be able to earn an additional €15 per week and still keep their weekly payment and children in receipt of welfare payments will also get an additional €2 per week if they are under 12 and €3 if they are over 12. These may seem like small measures but in reality, it frees these families from the tight grip of poverty.”
Commenting further, Tanya Ward said that: “The news that the Government will pilot a free primary school books scheme is also welcome. For too long families have been forced into debt and have gone without essentials at the beginning of each school year. Books are free in nearly every country in Europe. They should be in Ireland as well.”
“Budget 2020 also provides an additional €54 million for childcare but we need to see the detail on that. And while many more children will benefit from free GP care (children under the age of 8 will get free access) and from dental care (children under 6 will get free treatment) from September 2020, it’s disappointing to see that thresholds for medical cards have not increased for families. While today’s announcement means that people over 70 can now earn up to €500 and still qualify for a medical card, a family with one child can only earn less than two thirds of this to qualify for the medical card.”
What does this mean for families?
“The first major step to reduce child poverty is the inclusion of targeted measures to help one parent and lower income families in most need of support. We know that there are more costs that come with caring for older children and that is why we welcome the increase in the Qualified Child Increase to €36 per week. It is also great to see the Back to Work Family Dividend increased by €5 and the Working Family Payment increased by €10. These measures mean parents can work more and earn more without compromising the supports they will receive, a silver lining in an otherwise limited budget for children and families.”
“Investing in childcare not only improves early care and education for children but enables their families to continue to work. It is great to see Government continue to invest in this important framework for families with the provision of €54 million this year. We are a compassionate country, we do not want to leave those most in need behind. We know that lone parent and lower income families are five times more likely to live in consistent poverty. Compared to the €89 million given to childcare services last year we will be paying close attention to the detail released tomorrow by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to hear how they plan to use this year’s investment to the effectively reach families living on the breadline.”
“Making health care affordable and accessible will transform children’s overall health and wellbeing. We welcome the continued investment in children’s healthcare with the introduction of free GP care for children under eight and free dental care for children under six. The more families who can access healthcare supports when and where they need it, as early as they can, the more long-term benefits we will begin to see. It also means that families in a daily struggle to makes ends meet will have money to buy a warm winter coat for their child or put a hot meal on the table.
However, the Government needs to pay attention to the healthcare needs of particularly vulnerable children. For children in poverty and families living with the financial strain of a long-term illness need, the GP card simply isn’t enough. The additional benefits the medical card offers are what really make a difference. The income thresholds to qualify for a medical card have not been increased since 2005 and here, we have another national Budget that overlooks this for children. If we do not increase or even review these thresholds for families, the gap between the cost of living and the conditions to qualify for support will only get wider.”
“This year, we heard from hundreds of families who are going into debt just to cover back to school costs. Families up and down the country are feel the pinch every year as they struggle to manage the high costs of school books and extraordinary costs of crested uniforms. It is great to see that the calls to address these are being heard. The announcement of a free school books pilot project is a welcome commitment to addressing these costs for families. It’s a step in the right direction and something we would like to see extended to every child in primary school.”
Tanya Ward concluded, “We look forward to hearing more details from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection later this evening and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs tomorrow, to see the breakdown of these investments and the real impact they will have on families.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance is current analysing the impact of this Budget on children and families and will issue a detailed analysis Tuesday, 8 October and Wednesday, 9 October.
Contact: Emma Archbold, Children’s Rights Alliance 01 662 9400 / 0879971410 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editor:
• Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance is available for interview.
• Download the joint press statement on further investment in childcare here.
No Child 2020:
The No Child 2020 campaign launched in January 2019. The campaign is led by the Children’s Rights Alliance and an advisory group of its members including, Barnardos, Saint Vincent de Paul, Focus Ireland, One Family, National Youth Council of Ireland, Children in Hospital, Irish Heart Foundation, INTO and ASTI. More information can be found on the campaign website. #NoChild2020
About the Children’s Rights Alliance:
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 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