257,000 children in Ireland are living in enforced deprivation

257,000 children in Ireland are living in enforced deprivation
257,000 children living in enforced deprivation

Over 250,000 children in Ireland are living in enforced deprivation, according to the latest Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC 2023) published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) is the official source of data on household and individual income and provides a number of key national poverty indicators, such as the at risk of poverty rate, the consistent poverty rate, and rates of enforced deprivation.

SILC 2023 shows that while the risk of poverty and consistent poverty have fallen, 21 per cent of children (approximately 257,000 children) are most likely living in enforced deprivation. This means that an estimated one in five children in Ireland live in a household that was unable to afford to heat their home at some stage in the last year or afford two pairs of properly fitting shoes.

The percentage of people unable to keep their home adequately warm doubled from 3.4 per cent in 2021 to 7.2 per cent in 2023.

Lone parent households

41 per cent of single-adult households with children are most likely to be living in enforced deprivation, compared to 17 per cent for two adult-households with children.  The poverty rates for one-parent families continue to remain high which can have far-reaching consequences for children’s development and wellbeing.

Long term impacts of living in poverty

Research which looked at longer term exposure to poverty found that “there appears to be a cumulative effect of poverty exposure, in that outcomes are worse in the case of persistent or constant exposure.” The Dynamics of Child Poverty in Ireland: Evidence from the Growing Up in Ireland Survey, also found that “living in poverty, especially over a protracted period of time, has far-reaching consequences for children’s development and wellbeing.”

The role of Early Years and School Age Care in tackling poverty

There is a growing body of evidence which shows that the provision of high-quality Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) can be particularly beneficial for children experiencing disadvantage.

In a recent submission to the Department of Social Protection concerning poverty targets, Early Childhood Ireland recommended the following for at-risk groups:

1.     Set sub-targets on child poverty for at-risk groups within the child population.

2.     Efforts must be made to include the groups of children who are excluded from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) survey because they are not living in a household.

3.     Set targets for access to free Early Years and School Age Care services, including childminding, for our most vulnerable groups of children and families.

Furthermore, Early Childhood Ireland recommends the implementation of the following measures for the EY and SAC sector which would help tackle child poverty.

1.     Publish a 5-year plan for implementing additional investment, to reach €4 billion   by early 2029, thus achieving a publicly funded Early Years and School Age Care system in Ireland.

2.     As part of the 5-year plan, undertake consultations and research into a publicly funded model of Early Years and School Age Care.

3.     Include Early Years and School Age Care services in the local area child poverty plans that are part of the Young Ireland National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2023-2028.

4.     Building on Aistear and as part of increasing investment, embed the philosophy of the world-renowned Reggio Emilia Approach in the system to ensure that the rights of children are interlinked with educators, families, and communities.

5.     Unify the existing funding programmes, the National Childcare Scheme (NCS), Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and Core Funding, to allow settings to use capacity, not children’s attendance, as a funding measurement.

6.     Increase Graduate Premiums to further incentivise the recruitment and retention of highly qualified staff.

7.     Implement fully the ‘Better data’ recommendations from ‘Partnership for the Public Good: A New Funding Model for the Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare’ (2021) and initiate a system of national and local 2-year and 5-year planning cycles to ensure there are enough Early Years and School Age Care places in settings and in childminders’ homes for children in their own communities.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please do not hesitate to contact us at policy@earlychildhoodireland.ie

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