Child poverty is measured as the proportion of all children aged 17 years or younger that live in households with an income below the 60 per cent of median income poverty line. The 2022 SILC survey indicates that 15.2 per cent of this group were at risk of poverty- approximately 190,000 children. Over recent years there has been a welcome reduction in this number, falling from 22.9 per cent in 2008 and 18.4 per cent in 2018. Recent decreases have been driven by targeted welfare payments for families.
However, the long-standing scale of this statistic is alarming. Furthermore, the fact that such a large proportion of our children are living below the poverty line has obvious implications for the education system, for the success of these children within it, for their employment prospects in the future, and for Ireland’s social and economic performance in the long-term.
Child benefit remains a key route to tackling child poverty and is of particular value to those families on the lowest incomes. Similarly, it is a very effective component in any strategy to improve equality and childcare. Judged over time, there are significant benefits to society from a targeted anti child poverty programme, delivering major benefits to families in poverty, or at risk of being in poverty, but also delivering substantial long term benefits to the State. Budget 2024 should embrace this approach and commit to investing more to address, reduce and prevent child poverty in Irish society.
Children and Families
Investment in Children and Families is an essential investment in our social and human capital. Child benefit remains a key route to tackling child poverty and is of particular value to those families on the lowest incomes. In 2022, 15.2 per cent of children in Ireland were living in poverty. Social Justice Ireland proposes an increase of €50 in the Child Benefit payment in Budget 2024 at a cost of €740m as a first step towards investing more to address, reduce and prevent child poverty in Irish society.
Government should introduce an additional two weeks paternity leave in Budget 2024 at a cost of €14m and an additional two weeks of paid parental leave at a cost of €26m. To support child and family support services, Budget 2024 should allocate additional funding to Tusla of €47m for child protection and increased social provision for children and families, while increasing the resources available for the regulation of childminders by €2m. €3.5 million should be allocated to support the delivery of the National Action Plan for the EU Child Guarantee.
Budget 2024 should allocation an additional investment of €5m in funding for the Arts Council to embed arts and cultural participation as part of the ECCE framework. This investment would begin to address the large disparities in arts participation between children from different socio-economic backgrounds highlighted in the Growing up in Ireland study.
Budget Choices 2024 is available to download here.