Child alliance sees room to improve


GOOD EFFORT but could do better: this is the overall take on how the Government did on its commitments to children in the past year of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

In a report card published yesterday, the alliance of over 90 NGOs which work with children gave the Government a C+ for its performance on child-related issues, the best grade achieved by any government since the alliance first published its report cards in 2009.

However, it highlighted two areas where the Government was failing: the continued detention of 16 and 17-year-olds in St Patrick’s Institution in Dublin, and the impact of Budget 2012 on vulnerable families.

The new chief executive of the alliance, Tanya Ward, noted the Government received an E grade on child families.

“This reflects the decisions it made in 2012 with largely unfairly-aimed cuts at low-income families, particularly lone parents and families with three or more children. We know that these families are amongst the most vulnerable to poverty.”

Prof Pat Dolan of NUI Galway, a member of the alliance’s external panel, said that with regard to child poverty the report was “absolutely stark and frightening”.

“It says rates of child poverty are alarmingly high in Ireland, with over 19 per cent of children in poverty and almost 9 per cent of children in persistent poverty.”

The Government received an even lower mark, an F, for the continued detention of children at St Patrick’s, which houses people from the age of 16 to 21 but which operates a mostly adult regime.

However, Ms Ward said that overall it was her “pleasure” to give the Government a C+ for the commitments it had made to the rights of children. The grade had the potential to give Ireland a “fresh start” on the road to making it one of the best places in the world to be a child.

Ms Ward welcomed the Government’s commitment to hold a referendum on the rights of the child this year, the establishment of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the steps taken towards the establishment of a child and family support agency.

She noted the Government received a B- on education, a good mark overall, but said it did not do well in its provision of special education needs for children.

In health, the Government received an average C. The Government was praised for its commitment to building a national children’s hospital, and the report said some progress had been made on mental health, for which it received a C+. However it was dragged down by the practice of placing children in adult units.

It received a D in relation to alcohol and drugs because the alliance said it had failed to take any concrete steps to deal with the impact of alcohol on children.

The alliance noted that, although it had reserved a category for commitments made on behalf of Traveller and migrant children, the commitments were too vague, meaning the alliance was unable to grade them.

However, Judge Catherine McGuinness, also a member of the alliance’s external panel, sharply criticised the previous government for removing resource teachers for Traveller children.