Time for an audit of Child Poverty Initiatives

Posted on Tuesday, 21 February 2023
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Social Justice Ireland is calling for an audit of recent initiatives on child poverty by the Child Poverty and Wellbeing Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach to assess their overall impact.  This includes initiatives in Budget 2023 and the most recent announcement of cost of living measures.  One-off measures won’t address child poverty effectively and neither will they resolve the issues of poor housing on the health and developmental outcomes of children as highlighted in the most recent Growing Up in Ireland Study


Social welfare rates

Those who were left behind in Budget 2023 have been left behind again in Government’s cost of living package.  The failure to increase core social welfare rates by €8 demonstrates, once again, that this Government is not focussed on protecting Ireland’s most vulnerable. Instead, Government repeated the same mistake it made in the Budget, relying on one off short-term payments rather than increasing core social welfare rates.  Poor people are still far worse off than they were two years ago and will continue to be so, into the future. 

The cost of living crisis is an issue of adequate income.  The measures announced by Government today fail to deal with the key issue of income adequacy.  One off measures such as the €200 additional one-off payment to all social welfare recipients, the €100 additional one-off payment for Child Benefit recipients and the increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance while welcome, do nothing to address the challenges that many people on low and fixed incomes face in making ends meet on a daily basis.  They fail to deal with the reality of the unavoidable trade‐offs people living on inadequate incomes make on a daily basis due to income inadequacy.

Government could have put available resources into increasing core social welfare rates, making tax credits refundable, and expanding eligibility for schemes such as the fuel allowance and working family payment for working families.  This approach would have provided the on-going support that these households need.  Instead, Government again chose to prioritise one off payments over supporting households who are struggling. 

Low paid employment

The failure to make tax credits refundable, and to bring the minimum wage up to the Living Wage, means that Government still does not have efficient mechanisms to support and target lower paid workers and their families as they struggle with the increase cost of living.  While announcements in relation to school transport, hot school meals and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance are welcome to those who are eligible, they still don’t address the income challenges that these families currently face. 

The in-work poverty figure has remained consistently about 100,000 for several years now, indicating that in-work poverty is a trend which policy-makers and successive Governments have thus far failed to make any impact on. The idea of a job as an automatic poverty reliever is clearly contradicted by our analysis. The job must be well paid with decent conditions. In Budget 2023.  Government chose not to make tax credits refundable, meaning families and individuals on low pay were left behind.  Little has changed for these families with the most recent announcement of cost of living supports.

Social imbalances

The situation Government now finds itself in, introducing further measures to try to address increased costs of living less than five months after announcing a so-called ‘cost of living’ Budget highlights the need for a new  social contract and a new social dialogue.  Income inadequacy is just one of the social imbalances we, as a country must address.  There are also the ongoing challenges in terms of housing, healthcare and the provision of adequate public services and supports for some of the most vulnerable members of society.  A new social contract is required to address these social imbalances and to deliver on the policies and ambitions to support Ireland’s social and economic transition as we strive to meet our climate targets.  A new social dialogue is essential to address social imbalances and to ensure that no-one is left behind.


Social Justice Ireland response to cost of living package:

€200 one off additional payment for all social welfare recipients

  • A one-off additional payment, while welcome, will not solve the income adequacy and cost of living challenges that vulnerable households face.
  • A more appropriate use of resources would have been to increase core social welfare rates by €8 per week.  This is a targeted measure which would have supported those households most impacted by the cost of living crisis.

€100 Child Benefit payment per child

  • A one-off additional payment, while welcome, will not address the challenges faced by children living in families who are struggling on a daily basis.  These families have insufficient income to make ends meet.

€100 extra for the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and waiving of junior and leaving certificate fees

  • This one off additional allocation to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance is welcome, however many families who are struggling are not entitled to this allowance. 
  • A more appropriate use of resources would have been to extend eligibility for this allowance so that more households are supported.
  • The waiving of junior and leaving certificate fees for 2023 is welcome.

Expansion of Hot School Meals Programme in primary schools

  • The proposed expansion, beyond that announced in July 2022 is welcome. 
  • Social Justice Ireland is concerned that there is no mention of the subvention for hot school meal providers who have raised concerns about their ability to provide nutritious school meals on a rate of between €1.90 and €2.90 per meal.

Reduced school transport charges of €50 per pupil at primary level, €75 per pupil at post-primary level, with a cap per family of €125

  • The reduced school transport charges are welcome.  Lessons must be learned from the changes made in 2022 to ensure there are sufficient places available on school transport for all pupils who require a place.