No Child 2020: Its five demands, and what it achieved

No Child 2020 set out long-term and short-term goals to improve children’s lives

A daily school meal is a proven intervention in tackling child poverty. Our short-term ask was for a grants scheme to install cooking facilities in schools and childcare settings

A daily school meal is a proven intervention in tackling child poverty. Our short-term ask was for a grants scheme to install cooking facilities in schools and childcare settings

 

No Child 2020 has provided a sustained focus on child welfare and children’s issues in The Irish Times over the past year. It explored the problems facing children in Ireland today and offered solutions that would make this a better country to be a child. This was matched by campaign by the Children’s Rights Alliance for political change on children’s issues. Here we assess the five goals we published in January, and the extent to which they have been addressed at a policy level.

1. No child should be hungry

The long-term goal

Every child will have a hot, nutritious meal every day. Poor families spend up to a third of their income on food. About 10 per cent of the population lacks an adequate diet.

The first step

A daily school meal is a proven intervention in tackling child poverty. Our short-term ask was for a grants scheme to install cooking facilities in schools and childcare settings.

The result

A pilot scheme providing free hot meals in 36 primary schools will be extended to another 35,000 children in 2020. Another scheme will provide meals in 45 early-years childcare settings.

The shortfall

There is some way to go to extend these schemes to 500,000 children in primary schools and 330,000 in early-years settings.

2. No child should be homeless

The long-term goal

Home should be a warm, secure and safe place for all children. However, unprecedented numbers of children are experiencing homelessness.

The first step

Legislate to ensure the interests of children informs any decision about where to accommodate them. Time-limit – by law – the use of emergency accommodation for families with children.

The result

There is no sign that the Government will legislate to ensure housing policies are child-centred.

The shortfall

Despite a commitment to build 11,000 new social housing units next year, the situation seems to grow worse.

3. No child should be without timely, affordable healthcare

The long-term goal

Every child will have access to basic healthcare when they need it. Access to healthcare increases when financial barriers are removed.

The first step

Our short-term ask was that the Government increase medical card income thresholds for families with children, to the same income threshold as pensioners.

The result

Free GP care is to be expanded to children under the age of eight and free dental care will be provided to children under six.

The shortfall

There was disappointment that eligibility for medical cards was not extended to more low-income families in Budget 2020.

4. No child should be blocked from having an education

The long-term goal

The Constitution requires the State to provide for free primary education. It would cost €103.2 million annually to vindicate the constitutional right of all children to free primary education.

The first step

For books alone the average annual cost per primary school child is €95. Our short-term ask was for €20 million per annum to introduce free schoolbooks for every child in primary school.

The result

€1 million was provided to launch a pilot project for free schoolbooks in 50 primary schools.

The shortfall

Many families get into debt with back-to-school costs. In 2018, parents spent €360 for a senior-infant pupil and €380 for a fourth-class pupil to cover the basics of education.

5. No child should be excluded from culture and sport

The long-term goal

Every child will have the opportunity to take part in community-based arts and cultural activities. Taking part in singing, painting, dance and theatre benefits children academically and socially.

The first step

Invest to ensure every child can access at least one community arts or cultural opportunity each year, by providing a “culture card” to all under-18s or their parents.

The result

The project’s ask that all under-18s or their parents be provided with a “culture card” was not mentioned in Budget 2020.

The shortfall

Though a Creative Schools project, being piloted in 150 schools to increase children’s access to the arts is welcome, it is missing thousands of children whose lives, culturally and artistically, are non-existent.

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