Ending Child Poverty: the way forward:
1. Invest in prevention and early intervention. Prevention and early intervention are key to ending the inter-generational transmission of poverty and disadvantage and to improving outcomes for children. These approaches bring clear education, health and developmental benefits and are more effective and less expensive than later interventions.
2. Balance investment between income supports and services. A combination of child and adult income supports and access to quality public services is required to end child poverty. Countries with low rates of child poverty balance investment between income supports and quality services.
3. Set meaningful targets. The new National Children’s Strategy must contain a meaningful target to reduce child poverty, and a clear plan outlining how this will be achieved.
Specific policy measures to end child poverty:
Protect child income support payments and adult social welfare payments
• Maintain the current rate of Child Benefit, the Qualified Child Increase and current adult social welfare rates.
Provide access to quality, affordable and flexible Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
• Ensure there are no further cuts to budgets for ECCE so the progress made in recent years is not lost.
• Continue the policy of no top-ups in the Free Pre-School Year, and examine reasons for lower take-up in some localities to ensure that a shortage of free places is not acting as a constraint for parents with low incomes.
• Continue pushing for higher quality standards in services for young children through implementation of Síolta and Aistear and through incentivising qualifications above FETAC level 5. Require these standards in all ECCE services, not just the Free Pre-School Year.
Tackle educational disadvantage
• Safeguard the amalgamated grants that fund schools to provide activities associated with Transition Year, the Leaving Certificate Applied and various other programmes so that children in poor households can fully participate in school.
• Address the lengthy waiting lists for psychological assessments under the National Educational Psychological Service.
• Ensure that all children that need them have access to vital supports such as Special Needs Assistants, resource teachers, and language support teachers at an early stage.
•Ensure that there are no further cost increases to the School Transport Scheme for families.
Increase medical card eligibility for families
• Double the income eligibility threshold for a medical card for parents of children with ongoing medical conditions. Such children regularly visit the GP and use prescription medicines, at significant cost to their families.
Ensure every family has prompt access to a secure, affordable and appropriate home
• Retain tenants’ Rent Supplement contributions at current levels.
• Reduce the time period for eligibility for Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) housing from 18 months to 6 months, with a strong emphasis on tenancy sustainment.
• Take advantage of lower land, material and labour costs to increase the stock of social housing.
• Provide resources for social housing and related supports to implement the Homeless Strategy
Support families in low paid work by enhancing the Family Income Supplement (FIS) scheme
• Recognise that 87% of families have 1-3 children and realign the increases in Family Income Supplement (FIS) thresholds towards these families to ensure an effective financial return from work.
• Relax the minimum weekly working hours requirement for eligibility for FIS for a set period of time, in light of the reduction in working hours for many low paid workers.
• Promote the increased take up of FIS to ensure eligible families, including the self employed, are adequately supported and protected.