Call for resources to back children's rights
If the State was serious about vindicating children’s rights, it must be serious about resourcing and supporting them to ensure their lives didn’t fall into crisis, a foremost campaigner for marginalised young people has warned.
Speaking at a conference in Dublin on how best to fund services for children, John Lonergan, the former governor of Mountjoy, said the campaign to pass the children’s rights referendum would be the “easiest” bit.
“It is only the beginning, a foundation. The real test for us all as a society is, are the necessary resources going to be put in place? That is going to be a real test as it cuts across every facet of society - housing, education, health,” he said.
The conference was hosted by Archways, an organisation which promotes the use of evidence in framing interventions for vulnerable children and young people.
Mr Lonergan said the State’s main responsibility to children “must be to support, encourage, resource them; to be in there to make sure things don’t go wrong, to enable parents to be the best they can be.”
It was unacceptable that the economic situation be used to neglect children,” he said.
“Every single thing in this country at the moment is referred to in terms of the state of the economy. If we were to prioritise children in the way we prioritise the banks, if we meant it when we said we wanted to protect children, well we must make the resources available. “It’s a simple as that. If we don’t then the [children’s rights] referendum will have failed.”
Aileen O’Donghue, chief executive of Pathways, said the referendum should lead to a “reorientation” of resources into prevention and early intervention.
“We know the problems for children are best addressed as early as possible, that behavioural difficulties are much more difficult to address the longer the child is left [in a dysfunctional environment].”
At the conference she outlined a new programme, developed by Archways, in conjunction with public health nurses in the Clondalkin area of Dublin. Under the ’Up to 2’ programme, the public health nurses will link up with expectant mothers and continue supporting them until their child is two years old.
Normally, a new mother will receive just three visits from a public health nurse, after their baby is born. Ms O’Donoghue said the new programme was an example of established programmes could be enhanced simply to provide a lot more, and more effectively, for children and parents.