Taoiseach criticised in Dáil as families queue for nappies

Varadkar says many people ‘for their own reasons’ go to charities rather than State

A queue forms outside the Capuchin Day Centre for family necessities on Monday morning. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill

A queue forms outside the Capuchin Day Centre for family necessities on Monday morning. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the Government’s investment in relieving poverty following the revelation that hundreds of women, many of them homeless, are queueing at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin for nappies and infant formula milk.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said employment and welfare payments had increased and further allowances were pending. He said extra supports were directly available from Government through community welfare officers.

“I appreciate that people may, for their own reasons, not wish to avail of those supports and go to voluntary organisations instead, many of which - including food banks - are funded by Government”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin highlighted the report in The Irish Times of the weekly service where nappies and formula milk are provided free by the Capuchin Day Centre to families in need with more than 600 families registered and some travelling from hotels in Drogheda and Dundalk, where they have been accommodated.

He said the State should be investing more and there was “an urgent requirement to focus on the needs of homeless children and to reduce the necessity for the Capuchin Day Centre to have to continue to intervene at the level and scale at which it is intervening in order to prevent poverty and destitution”. He noted that the Capuchin centre did not receive any Government funding.

Many of those seeking help were living with their parents. They “are not included in the statistics relating to homelessness but they are living in very stressful circumstances nonetheless”.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the photos in the paper of people queueing for nappies and formula showed “how the Government is failing in its responsibility to protect some of the most vulnerable citizens in society, namely our young people and children”.

Bur Mr Varadkar said there had been a significant increase in the number of people at work and this had helped to reduce poverty in general and also child poverty.

Welfare payments had been increased and further increases in March next year were aimed at families with children on low incomes.

He said “there will be an increase in the qualified allowance for children, improvements in family income supplement and improvements for lone parents”.

The Taoiseach added that people who could not get by “even with their welfare payments, have the option of going to community welfare officers to seek exceptional needs payments or urgent needs payments”.

InFianna Fáil Seanad leader Catherine Ardagh, who raised the issue in the Upper House, said: “It is not acceptable in a prosperous country where we say we have full employment and the economy is meant to be thriving that mothers are queuing for nappies and formula. It beggars belief.”

She also said that “if there is such a need and children are going to starve or go without nappies, it would be right for the Government to step in”.

Deputy Fine Gael Seanad leader Catherine Noone said nobody wanted to see such scenes. “I don’t think there was a suggestion from the photo that certain citizens are starving. The reality is the State provides for mothers and babies in difficult financial circumstances. It is good that there is extra provision of certain things they need from the Capuchin Day Centre.”

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