State of the Nation’s Children (2023)

State of the Nation’s Children (2023)

Minister Roderic O’Gorman recently launched the 2023 State of the Nation’s Children (SONC) report. This report provides a comprehensive picture of the lives of children in Ireland, including key information on children’s health, behavioural and educational outcomes, and their relationships with their parents and their friends.

The SONC report provides the most up-to-date data on the National Set of Child Wellbeing indicators, and:

  • charts the wellbeing of children in Ireland
  • tracks changes over time
  • benchmarks progress in Ireland relative to other countries

The report is widely used as a resource by policy makers, researchers, and civil society, and aims to inform Government policy on children, young people, and families.

Demographics

In 2023, there were 1,255,738 children living in Ireland, accounting for 23.2 per cent of the total population. Of these, 55,716 were aged less than one year, down from 61,027 in 2022. 625,865 were male and 599,873 were female. In 2022, there were 131,764 children with a disability in Ireland, which is 10.8 per cent of the child population.

In 2022, there were 14,142 Traveller children in Ireland. This accounted for 1.2 per cent of the total child population and 42.9 per cent of the total Traveller population. Overall, 11.6 children per 1,000 were Travellers. Rates ranged from 3.3 per 1,000 in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown to 50.6 per 1,000 in Galway City.

In 2022, there were 88,630 foreign national children in Ireland. This accounted for 7.3 per cent of the child population.

Early Years, Literacy and Schooling

For the 2022/23 year there were 108,616 children registered for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. There were 3,970 services contracted to offer ECCE in 2022/23. The report also notes that in the 2022/23 year 2,946 (78 per cent) of pre-school services under contract to deliver the ECCE Programme under Core Funding had a least one staff member with Quality and Qualifications Ireland Level 7 (QQI L7) or above. This ranged from 68 per cent in Longford to 95 per cent in Meath. Higher qualification levels are considered by First 5 to be a key feature of a high-quality system.

In terms of literacy, in 2022, 15-year-old children in Ireland achieved a mean score of 516.0 on the OECD-PISA reading literacy scale, making Irish students the best performing in reading literacy among the 37 countries in the OECD and the 27 Member States of the European Union. The same age group of children achieved a mean score of 504 on the OECD-PISA science literacy scale, up from 496 in 2018.

Worrying trends emerged however, for example in the school year 2021/2022, 40.3 per cent of children in primary school were absent for more than 20 days, up substantially from 11.1 per cent in 2020/2021. Similarly, 26.8 per cent of students in post primary school were absent for more than 20 days, up from 12.0 per cent in 2020/2021.

Tusla and Child Protection

There were also worrying increases in the number of children referred to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. The SONC Report noted that in the 4th quarter of 2022 there were 21,473 child welfare and protection referrals to Tusla, up from 19,580 in 2021. However, there was a reduction of children in the care of the Agency. For example, it is reported that in 2022, there were 5,626 children in the care of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency down from 5,777 in 2021.

Child Poverty

Child poverty is growing in Ireland, according to the report. Children were more likely to be both at risk of poverty and to experience consistent poverty than the population as a whole. In 2022, 15.2 per cent of children were at risk of poverty, up from 13.6 per cent in 2021, while 7.5 per cent of children experienced consistent poverty, up from 5.2 per cent in 2021. It was also noted that in 2022, there were 21,086 households with children identified as in need of social housing.

Conclusion

The State of the Nation’s Children: Ireland Report was introduced in 2006. Since then, it has been subsequently published on a biennial basis, compiling data from numerous domestic and international sources. All previous publications of the report are available on the  website.

In line with the government’s Open Data Initiative, much of the data is available in an open, machine-readable format. It is produced by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth’s (DCEDIY) Research and Evaluation Unit. Most of the data is housed in the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) PxStat system.

You can read the full report on the DCEDIY website.

Get in touch

If you have any questions, please get in touch with our Policy, Advocacy and Campaigning team at [email protected]

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