Blog by Mary Nicholson, Social Policy Analyst, Children’s Rights Alliance.
On 14 June 2021, the European Union adopted the Child Guarantee. This is a historic moment for children in Ireland and across Europe, as it aims to prevent and combat child poverty and social exclusion by requiring States to work towards providing children in need free access to early childhood education and care; education (including school-based activities); a healthy meal each school day; healthcare; and to ensure effective access to healthy nutrition and adequate housing.
In Ireland, there has been a lot of work done to tackle child poverty in recent years. However, the 2019 data highlights that 8.1 per cent of children continued to live in consistent poverty, while 15.3 per cent of children were at risk of poverty. The Child Guarantee presents a unique opportunity for Ireland to harness EU momentum to tackle child poverty. As the rate here is higher than the EU average, the State will have to earmark five per cent of its ESF+ allocation to combat child poverty or social exclusion.
The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) is in the process of establishing an EU/International Unit which will act as the Child Guarantee coordinator. In addition, a new National Action Plan on child poverty is being developed. This plan will set out how the Irish Government will realise the commitments contained in the EU Child Guarantee. Ireland is the only country in the EU to have a children’s Minister (Minister for Children Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth) playing a key role in the government’s commitment to tackle child poverty.
A key part of the Child Guarantee is to reduce social inequalities, and this must be done from birth so investment in early childhood development to ensure a fair start for every child is vital. In Ireland, the foundations are in place to do this via First 5: a whole-of-Government strategy to improve the lives of babies, young children and their families. It is a ten-year plan to help make sure all children have positive early experiences and get a great start in life. However, it is essential that any action plans and increased resources must also ensure investment in early childhood development, especially for the age group from birth to three years of age, with particular attention on the most vulnerable.
The Covid-19 crisis, which included widespread lockdowns, has generated significant challenges for children and families and has increased already existing inequalities. This EU Child Guarantee is a timely and much needed instrument to end child poverty and give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential in Ireland and across Europe.
To raise awareness of the EU Child Guarantee in the Irish context we have developed an infographic and a Frequently Asked Questions that can be accessed here.
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. The Alliance is a National Coordinator of the First Years First Priority campaign.