‘Little or no progress’ made by Government on children’s mental health supports, report says

Coalition has done well in areas such as online safety, affordable access to childcare and school books scheme expansion, Children’s Rights Alliance says

The Government made progress on its commitments to children in a number of major policy areas during 2023 but continues to fall far short of what is required when it comes to mental health care and supports, the Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) has said.

In the latest of its annual Report Card series the umbrella body for about 150 organisations working with children or in areas of relevance to them, the CRA says the Coalition has done well in areas such as online safety, affordable access to childcare and the expansion of the schoolbooks scheme.

It also acknowledges progress on issues such as the provision of pathways for undocumented families and food poverty.

It expresses concern, however, on the growing number of children affected by homelessness, the wellbeing of children in direct provision and the declining standard of the homes in which many families with children are housed.


It is particularly critical on mental health supports, however, pointing to “the continued practice of admitting children to adult psychiatric units and the unacceptable rise in waiting lists for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services”. That number is put at just short of 4,000.

The annual review is presented in the style of a report card intended to assess progress on the implementation of 16 commitments made in the programme for government document in 2021. On the mental health issue, it awards the Coalition an E, saying it has taken what chief executive Tanya Ward describes as “unacceptable” steps in the wrong direction with “no positive impact on children”.

The report is compiled by a panel of independent experts, many of them academics, with the co-operation of a number of Government departments and the support of a range of NGOs working in the areas covered.

Overall, Ms Ward acknowledged, “the Covid-19 pandemic had a major impact on the implementation of the programme for government and its ability to deliver for children and young people”. The cost-of-living crisis also continues to impact many children, she said.

“Despite these pressures,” she added, however, “the Government did make important strides progressing key commitments to children and young people.”

She pointed to the enactment of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act along with the establishment of the Online Safety Commissioner as important steps in relation to online safety and the provision of a €1 billion budget for childcare five years ahead of schedule as a welcome development.

The school book scheme, the report suggests, impacted on 774,000 children by the end of the last year, something Ms Ward describes as “a game changer” for many families striving to cope with the cost of education.

In each area, the organisation awards the Government an A grade.

Among the areas in which the Government has come up short, the report suggests, is housing, with the number of homeless children put at 3,911, up from 2,327 in 2020.

“The long-term vision and forward thinking that we see in areas relating to child poverty has helped shift some of the systemic issues that have impacted children’s lives for years.

“With progress either declining or stalling completely in areas of mental health, and serious challenges in the areas of housing and accommodation standards, it is critical that similar thinking and recommendations are considered if the Government truly wants to deliver for children and young people,” she concludes.

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times