Together for Children and Young People in Ireland

Posted on Thursday, 16 May 2024
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A new joint project Report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission ' Together for Children and Young People in Ireland - Towards a New Governance Framework' "assesses recent policy, institutional and legislative developments in Ireland and compares outcomes for children and young people with those in other EU and OECD countries". The report notes that despite making much progress, there are still a number of areas where Ireland can improve, particularly on reducing the number of children living in poverty and that "more can be done to address the trust gap between young people in Ireland and their government". The report sets out a series of recommendations focusing on inter-departmental and inter-agency co-operation, the need to strengthen evidence-based policy making, to reinforce monitoring and to improve accountability. It also recommends some measures that support the implementation of Young Ireland, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People (2023-28), and the importance of coherence in both policy and service design and delivery.


The Context - Child Poverty in Ireland

Child poverty is a reality for about 176,900 children; a stark statistic which raises major questions for fairness and progress.  The recent increased political focus on child poverty via the establishment of a Child Poverty and Well-Being Office in the Department of the Taoiseach, the launch of its ‘Initial Programme Plan’ 2023-25, and measures in Budget 2024 were welcome and overdue. Given the slow and limited progress achieved by many previous anti-poverty strategies, it is crucial that these new anti-child poverty ambitions translate into actual measures that put more income in the pockets of poorer families and make the public services they rely on more available and more affordable. Child poverty is essentially an issue of low income families and child poverty solutions hinge on issues such as adequate adult welfare rates, decent rates of pay and conditions for working parents, and adequate and available public services. Child benefit also remains a key route to tackling child poverty. It is of particular value to those families on the lowest incomes.

Children live in families, households, and societies. They are impacted by the physical environment in which they live. The damage done by poverty to children's wellbeing and outcomes can last a lifetime. A CSO report published in December 2020 examined the Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantages using data from a module included in the SILC 2019 survey. Based on answers from people aged 25-59 about their life situation when they were about 14 years old, the report explored if a person’s household circumstances as a teenager are associated with poverty indicators in later life. Among its findings, the report highlighted the intergenerational impacts of lower completed education levels as respondents whose parents had lower secondary education had a 16.2 per cent risk of poverty as adults compared with 6.2 per cent for those who had parents with third level education. The CSO report also found that financial disadvantage in childhood appears to persist to adulthood. People who described the financial situation of their teenage home as bad were most likely to be at risk of poverty (18.2 per cent) or living in enforced deprivation (39 per cent) as adults in 2019.

The Report notes that whilst "Income support for low-income families has the potential to reduce material deprivation among children in poor households, but it may not provide enough support to fully meet children’s material needs....there is no strict overlap between households’ income poverty and child material deprivation: thirteen per cent of children experienced child specific material deprivation in Ireland in 2021, 2.5% of these were in income poor households, and slightly less than 11% were in non-income poor household. This evidence suggests that lack of income may not be the only cause of children’s exposure to material deprivation as it also depends on the provision of services to meet children’s basic needs". 


Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in any society. The care and support we provide for them will play a large part in determining the adults they will become. The Report makes recommendations under 4 headings. 

Streamlining inter-departmental and inter-agency co-ordination

  • Enacting statutory child poverty reduction targets.

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the Child Poverty and Well-being Programme Office in driving government co-ordination on cross-cutting policy challenges, including across electoral cycles.

  • Mapping co-ordination mechanisms and defining clear terms of reference to prevent mandate overlaps.

  • Developing a monitoring framework to co-ordinate tracking of child and youth policy.

  • Setting a statutory 'duty to co-operate' for departments and agencies beyond information sharing.

  • Allocating dedicated funding for policy delivery structures including the Child and Family Agency to support strategic alignment and address service gaps.

  • Reviewing and streamlining subnational level co-ordination structures for effective planning and delivery.

Promoting evidence-based policymaking and services

  • Basing prioritisation of policy objectives on robust evidence on inequalities.

  • Strengthening stakeholder co-ordination on data priorities.

  • Improving statistical measures and evidence collection to address evidence gaps for monitoring child poverty and its impact on child well-being.

  • Enabling disaggregation and linkage of data in Ireland based on, among others, age, and equality indicators.

  • Ensuring timely reporting on unmet public service needs and building robust information systems.

  • Enhancing data quality and integration of datasets by standardising definitions and data collection/reporting cycles and building data protection capacities.

  • Integrating international experiences in developing the Child and Youth Impact Assessment prototype.

  • Supporting Departments to conduct meaningful child and youth consultation, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, through training and guidance dissemination.

Reinforcing accountability frameworks

  • Ensuring that relevant Oireachtas Committee(s) periodically invite the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to report on the implementation of Young Ireland.

  • Defining and clarifying roles, responsibilities, and mandates across independent oversight institutions.

  • Requiring concise reporting on outcomes and impacts from departments involved in implementing Young Ireland and constituent strategies to enhance interdepartmental accountability.

  • Reinforcing financial and public accountability through, among others, strengthening expenditure tracking methodologies. 


Implementing Young Ireland and promoting policy coherence

  • Clarifying mandates of governance bodies underpinning Young Ireland and constituent strategies.

  • Incentivising continuous high-level representation and strengthening local-level representation in Young Ireland governance structures.

  • Enhancing policymakers’ capacities to engage children and young people meaningfully throughout Young Ireland’s lifetime, using child-friendly platforms and materials.

  • Developing a formal results-based Monitoring and Evaluation framework to systematically monitor and track Young Ireland’s progress and performance.

  • Aligning strategic goals of Young Ireland with other child and youth-related strategies and integrating monitoring and accountability processes of relevant strategies into those of Young Ireland.