The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures), published by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in 2014, includes a target to reduce by two-thirds the number of children in consistent poverty in 2011 by 2020. Meeting this target means lifting more than 70,000 children out of poverty by that date.
Under the BOBF Framework, a whole-of-government approach to tackling child poverty has been adopted, building on the lifecycle approach in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion and informed by the European Commission Recommendation on ‘Investing in children: Breaking the cycle of disadvantage’.
The latest data from the 2017 Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) show a significant reduction in the consistent poverty rate for children, which decreased from 10.9% to 8.8%, a reduction of 2.1 percentage points, the second highest reduction in the rate since the collection of SILC data began in 2004.
The full benefit of the growing economy and the increases introduced in more recent Budgets has yet to be seen. Budgets 2018 and 2019 have included measures specifically aimed at supporting families on low incomes through increases in qualified child rates, increases in earnings disregards for One Parent Family and Jobseeker Transition payments, and an increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.
These increased supports along with increasing employment rates suggest that we can expect further decreases in the poverty rates once the 2018 figures become available.
However, the challenge Ireland faces in trying to achieve the child poverty target needs some perspective: at the height of the economic boom in 2008, when the consistent poverty rate for children was its lowest, there were 68,000 children in consistent poverty. So, in order to meet the target, Ireland will have to be more than twice as effective as our best ever performance to date.
While social transfers play a crucial role in alleviating poverty and Ireland is among the best performing EU States for reducing poverty through social transfers, tackling child poverty is not just about income supports and welfare. Rather it is also about supporting parents to make the transition into employment and assisting families through the provision of quality affordable services in areas such as education, health, housing and childcare.
My Department is in the final stages of drafting the new Poverty and Social Inclusion Strategy which will assemble in one place the range of policy measures across government departments that are designed to address the different aspects of poverty and social exclusion. The new strategy will include a programme of work to identify the actions and services that have the most significant impact on reducing poverty and deprivation for different groups, including children.