The Children’s Rights Alliance today launched their Annual Report Card. The Report Card is an annual publication evaluating the Government's progress on actions for children, and identifying serious issues for children. The Government has gone up one grade from last year, ‘D+’ to ‘C-‘. The lowest grade is ‘E’ in Child and Family Homelessness. The highest grade is ‘B’ in Child Protection System.
The grade increase is thanks to developments as ‘increased funding for the School Meals Programme, progress on developing a LGBTI+ Strategy for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people and introducing the sugar tax on drinks’. The highest grade, B, was achieved by the Child Protection System, whilst the lowest, E, was awarded to Child and Family Homelessness.
Right to Education - C
- CRA welcomed the progress of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) Programme in setting out targets such as supporting schools with ‘the highest concentrations of pupils at greatest risk of educational disadvantage’. However, they also voiced concerns that resources may be taken from existing DEIS schools and reallocated to new DEIS schools.
- Religious diversity in schools received a C-, with progress in this area labelled ‘limited’ and ‘slow’.
Right to an Adequate Standard of Living – D+
- The more improved sections of this area, Prevention and Early Intervention (C) and Parental Leave and Income Supports (C), were overshadowed by the abysmal state of Child and Family Homelessness. They present the distressing statistics regarding the number of homeless children in Ireland, which has increased since from 2,505 in 2016 to 3,333 in 2017.
- The report shows that the deadline to use emergency hotel accommodation ‘only in limited circumstances’ by mid-2017 has not been met, and that there are as yet no official figures detailing the extent of ‘hidden homelessness’, where families are sharing or living in private accommodation that is ‘unsuitable or inappropriate’.
Right to Health – C-
- The most concerning issue in the Right to Health category is child mental health (D+). Ireland has fourth highest rate of teenage suicide in the EU and 2,767 children on waiting lists for vital mental health appointments. Whilst the report commends the publication of the National Youth Mental Health Task Force Report, and the progression of the review of A Vision for Change, they highlight that ‘demand for mental healthcare services continues to exceed availability at all levels’ and many gaps remain throughout the system.
Rights in the Family Environment and Alternative Care - B-
- This section begins with a discouraging news report on the lack of Garda checks on Limerick fosterers, yet this area actually saw the most positive increase since 2016. This is largely due to improvement in child protection (B), which made good progress on child safeguarding, and was particularly commended on the commencement of all remaining sections of the Children First Act 2015.
Rights in Early Childhood - D+
- Subsidised and School-Age Childcare has dropped from a B to a C grade, due to the failure of the timely delivery of the Affordable Childcare scheme, promised for September 2017. The report did welcome the announcement of additional funding for the School Age Funding Capital Scheme, which will aim to increase the provision for school-age children and improve services for them.
Right to Equality - C-
- Despite improvements to school completion rates, Traveller children still leave school on average five years before their peers, and continue to be significantly more likely to report being bullied at school. CRA call for the review of the government’s anti-bullying strategy to properly address this issue. Poor physical health continues to be a primary issue here: Traveller children are 3.6 times more likely to die in infancy, and 6.18% of Traveller children under-14 are reported to have ‘very bad’ health, compared with 0.17 of the general under-14 populations.
- A B- grade was awarded to the good progress on LGBTI+ Children, following improvements such as the LGBTI+ Youth Strategy. Meanwhile the progress on Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Children received a mere D+, with crucial issues including 1,300 children living in direct provision centres. Residents are spending on average 5-6 months over the 3-4 month recommended time living in these centres, which are not suitable for long-term accommodation, and means that the education programs in place there, designed for 3 months residency, become quickly inadequate.
The full report is available here.