The reduction of child poverty and homelessness are key political priorities for the Government. In recognition of the higher risks and life-long consequences of child poverty, the Government set a child-specific poverty target in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2014-2020), to reduce consistent child poverty by at least two-thirds on 2011 levels by 2020.
Under the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Framework, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is leading our collective efforts in taking a whole-of-Government approach to tackling child poverty, which includes the issue of child homelessness. My Department is, of course, central to this response as outlined in the following:
First, the Sponsors Group of the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures are advancing five cross sectoral priorities on an annual basis. These include; First 5 Strategy (DCYA), Healthy Ireland (DoH), child poverty (DEASP), wellbeing in schools (DES) and child homelessness (DHPLG).
Second, a whole-of-Government approach is being advanced to tackle child poverty in Ireland. This approach is based on the plans produced by the Sponsors Group and National Advisory Council under Better Outcomes Brighter Futures and detailed in the DEASP’s paper ‘A Whole-of-Government Approach to Tackling Child Poverty’.
The paper deals with many of the issues highlighted by the Deputy including six key priorities:
1. Universal GP care for U6s and the future extension to U12s and U18s
2. Reducing the cost of education
3. Reducing the cost of housing
4. Affordable childcare
5. Labour activation
6. Provision of in-work benefits.
Third, at my request in February 2019, I asked the Advisory Council to refresh and prioritise their proposals in how best the issues of child poverty could be addressed in the immediate term. This draft paper has recently been received. Some of the key recommendations relate to:
1. Building Government capacity though a central lead point on Child Poverty
2. Monitoring and Documenting Trends on Child Poverty
3. Tackling Intergenerational Poverty and Building Strong Communities
I am actively considering the recommendations from the Advisory Council, while also advancing a number of key initiatives that support some of these recommendations. This is being done through focussed research internally within my Department, as well as through our forthcoming National Childcare Scheme. This 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 above developments will inform the work of the Sponsors group and Advisory Council to ensure greater coordination and targeting of our efforts in addressing child poverty and homelessness so as we sustain a cross-government approach.
I will of course be liaising with Cabinet colleagues on these developments and in advancing solutions to these most intractable issues.