Children’s welfare should be an election issue, group says

ISPCC wants candidates to commit to change as part of #InvestInChildhood campaign

The ISPCC launches its #InvestInChildhood general election campaign. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

The ISPCC launches its #InvestInChildhood general election campaign. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds

 

Candidates in the general election must commit to improving standards of living and welfare and mental health services for the State’s youth, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) has said.

The ISPCC has also called on candidates to publish a national strategy on children’s cyber safety and to create a drug and alcohol rehabilitation network for young people as part of its #InvestInChildhood general election campaign.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said the next government must commit to ending the nation’s homelessness crisis and provide support to children living in emergency and direct provision accommodation.

“We must keep our promises to children and implement the recommendations of the Government’s own working group report on direct provision,” Ms Long said.

“We need more ambition for our children.

“Our national childline service continues to receive over 600,000 contacts a year. We know what life is like for children because we listen to them.”

She also said there was an urgent need for dedicated resources to support young people with depression and other mental health illnesses.

“So many children are struggling with mental ill health while they wait over a year for a child psychologist.

“Their health is worsening, damaging their schooling, damaging their self-esteem and damaging their relationships.”

Ms Long also said that the majority of the ISPCC’s calls and messages come after 6pm, when most social work services are unavailable.

“This means we cannot access a social worker for that child . . . the only option open to us is to contact law enforcement,” she said.

Online risks

Representing the ISPCC’s Children’s Advisory Committee, Katie Duffy (13), from Termonfeckin in Co Louth, spoke at the launch of the risks young people face through online activity.

“In real life people don’t stand on the streets handing out pictures of themselves or their friends to random people, that’s exactly what happens online,” said Ms Duffy.

“We need support, not shouting . . . Reacting in a more patient manner will make us more open and not hide our online lives.

“We all make mistakes, just remember that.”

The ISPCC also called on candidates to put the best interests of children at the heart of all new laws if elected and ensure the next government implements legislation to meet the demands and requirements of organisations that work with children.