Policy in Action 23 January 2024

Policy in Action 23 January 2024

Early Childhood Ireland has called on the Government to reduce the consistent poverty rate for children living in Ireland from 7.5 per cent to 2 per cent over five years.

This ambitious target is one of many proposals that Early Childhood Ireland has made as part of a recent submission to the Public Consultation on Setting a New Child Poverty Target, published by the Department of Social Protection.

Consistent poverty in Ireland

Today, approximately 90,000 children in Ireland are experiencing consistent poverty. Children who experience consistent poverty are “both at risk of poverty and experience two or more deprivation items[1]” such as being without heating at some stage in the last year or being unable to afford a warm waterproof coat. No child should experience this level of deprivation and to ensure that consistent poverty is reduced or eradicated, it must remain the most appropriate basis for a national child poverty target.

Currently, the consistent poverty rate for children aged 0-17 is 7.5 per cent. Early Childhood Ireland believes that the new child poverty target should align with the national consistent poverty target of 2 per cent that the Government committed to achieving over five years in its Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020 – 2025.

Targeting at-risk groups

Identifying and targeting at-risk groups enables policy makers to implement policy interventions.

Research shows that “living in poverty, especially over a protracted period of time, has far-reaching consequences for children’s development and wellbeing [2]” and that there are “several family characteristics that are particularly associated with persistent poverty, including lone parenthood, parents from ethnic minority backgrounds, low levels of maternal education, parents with a disability and larger families. [3]

As part of the submission, Early Childhood Ireland has made the following recommendations 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.

Actions proposed for the Early Years and School Age Care sector

The provision of high-quality Early Years (EY) and School Age Care (SAC) as a means to reducing and addressing the negative effects of poverty is supported by the European Commission and the OECD.

Early Childhood Ireland recommends the implementation of the following measures for the EY and SAC sector which would help to meet the child poverty target.

1.     Publish a five-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 five-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 two-year and five-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.

You can find out more about this public consultation here.

Get in touch

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

[1] Central Statistics Office, Survey on Income and Living Conditions (2022)

[2] Dynamics of Child Poverty in Ireland: Evidence from the Growing Up in Ireland Survey

[3] ibid

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