Number of families helped by Barnardos up 8% last year

‘I wish I could put every child at risk of poverty on a hospital trolley,’ Finlay says

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said that Ireland is great at picking up the pieces while the better way to proceed would be preventative care.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said that Ireland is great at picking up the pieces while the better way to proceed would be preventative care. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The number of families helped by Barnardos increased by eight per cent last year compared to 2015, according to preliminary figures released by the children’s charity on Tuesday.

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said that Ireland is great at picking up the pieces while the better way to proceed would be preventative care. He said the State has never believed in early intervention.

“I wish I could put every child at risk of poverty on a hospital trolley. That’s 120,000 – enough children to fill Croke Park twice over. That would dominate the news.

“It is a silent problem,” he told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Finlay said that Minister for Children Katherine Zappone is committed and passionate about the issue but that she is in the smallest government department and is having to punch above her weight.

“Every time we meet with the Government there is a sense that there is a willing ear, but when we walk away there is a sense that they are overwhelmed with other problems.

Half of their work is funded by the State, a figure he thought might be around €8million. “We have 30 service level agreements around the country, mostly with Túsla.

“This is the first year since the recession that our funding hasn’t been cut.”

Mr Finlay said the charity is a third of the way through the Government’s flagship policy for young people, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures 2014-2020, but that its impact is not being felt.

“The target was to lift 70,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020, but right now if we wanted to halve the number of children in poverty that number would have to be altered upwards to 96,000.

“The system has gotten worse.”

He said Barnardos will be advocating a number of programmes this year including the introduction of a baby box similar to the scheme in Finland where every new born receives a box of items valued at €500.

Mr Finlay also called for the reintroduction of public nurse visits. “There was a time when every new baby would receive five visits from a public nurse in the first few months, that has pretty much disappeared because of cuts. These preventative steps would make a profound difference.”