Under the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures National Policy Framework (2014 – 2020) my Department, in collaboration with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and other Departments, is taking a whole-of-government approach to tackling child poverty.
A considerable amount has been achieved through this cross government working and through the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures implementation structures such as the National Advisory Council.
I and officials in my Department are working closely with the Council in identifying the most impactful approaches to be considered in addressing child poverty, and I am currently considering the outcomes from this process.
Effective measures have being introduced by the Government in the last three budgets. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection specifically provides income support for families, spending in excess of €3 billion in 2018 through child-related supports, including: the Working Family Payment, Increases for a Qualified Child (to primary social welfare payments), the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and Child Benefit.
Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures includes a target to reduce by two thirds the number of child living in consistent poverty by 2020. Good progress is being made. The latest data from the 2017 Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) shows a significant reduction in the consistent poverty rate for children over 2016, which decreased from 10.9% to 8.8%, a reduction of just over 2 percentage points (25,000 children), the second highest reduction in the rate since the collection of SILC data began in 2004.
The forthcoming National Childcare Scheme, under my Department, will mean the first ever statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare. The scheme aims to improve children’s outcomes, support lifelong learning, and reduce the cost of quality childcare for families across Ireland and to help reduce child poverty.
The next National Action Plan on Poverty and Social Inclusion (2019 – 2025) currently being finalised by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Inclusion, is due to be published shortly. This will assemble in one place the range of policy measures across Government Departments that are designed to address different aspects of poverty and social inclusion, including child poverty. This Plan will keep child poverty firmly on the radar of Government and will help keep the momentum moving forward.
I have written to the Taoiseach asking that as we prepare for the Action Plan the issue of child poverty is discussed at the heart of Government – involving every Minister, every Department as well as the agencies they work with.