Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Ombudsman for Children's Initiative on Eliminating Child Poverty and Child Homelessness: Statements


3:05 pm

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change) | Oireachtas source

Like many other Deputies who have spoken, I absolutely endorse the Ombudsman for Children's report, A Better Normal. I want to hear how the Government is going to implement the report. The Minister made a fair point in his introduction that other issues and plans have been put in place but this report goes deeply into the situation faced by children in poverty as we come out of the pandemic.

Like many Ombudsman reports, the report in question sees a problem, investigates in great detail where the problem is and what the needs are, and puts forward solutions based on human rights obligations, needs and demands to which the Government must be committed to solve the issues. The report particularly underlines the opportunity at hand to eradicate the long-standing issues of child poverty and family homelessness which impact on every aspect of children's lives. A Better Normal is an initiative designed to ensure that children are considered and prioritised, as opposed to the powerful industries and sectors that all need support. The report states we cannot leave children behind.

For some children, the consequences of Covid-19 will be long lasting. The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, report, Child Poverty in Ireland and the Pandemic Recession, explores the probable impact of the pandemic on child poverty and concludes that "even with a partial economic recovery, child poverty rates could increase to 19%, up from 16% in 2018". The report goes on to state that, "This is not surprising as 'previous recessions have exacerbated levels of child poverty, with long-lasting consequences for children's health, wellbeing and learning outcomes'."

The report goes on to state that, "In a report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018, the UN's special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing highlighted the status of homelessness as a violation of human rights and States' corresponding and immediate obligation to address homelessness." The report then quotes from the special rapporteur's report, stating, "The lived experience of homelessness and inadequate housing challenges the very core of what it means to be human, assaulting dignity and threatening life itself." That is a profound statement and I agree with it.

The main point in the report in question is that we must achieve an adequate standard of living. Adjusting social welfare supports by €5 or €10, depending on economic boom or bust, does not serve children and families well. As was pointed out earlier, the minimum essential standard of living, MESL, data provide a better, evidence-based advocacy benchmark. The report calls for a right to housing for everyone in Ireland to be enshrined in our Constitution and I agree with that. It calls on us to end child homelessness and stresses the need to target services, which is very important. The report does not really touch on the mental health of children. Barnardos has done a good report in that regard and in relation to parents with autistic children. They have been left behind during the pandemic and need to be prioritised. I agree that a committee should be set up, once it is a committee with teeth that will actually do something.


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