everyone has a right to a place they can call home
policy information document C
What is Child Poverty?
Children (and their) families are living in poverty if their
income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so
inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of
living that is regarded acceptable by Irish society generally.
Poverty manifests itself across a range of needs that go
beyond income, to include inadequate housing, unequal
access to health care, disability and educational
disadvantage. The longer a child is poor the greater the
impact on the life chances of the child and subsequent
deprivation in later life.
How many Children are in
The most recent research tells us that there are 66,000
children living in Ireland on an income below the poverty
line (below 70% of national median income) and who
experience the deprivation of such basic items as a
substantial meal over a two week period or have always to
wear second hand clothes instead of new and who don’t
own two pairs of strong shoes.
Who is at Risk of Poverty?
A greater proportion of children than adults face a risk of
poverty in Ireland. Certain groups of children are particularly
at risk of experiencing poverty and social exclusion. Some of
these groups are not included in the survey that produces
the official figure for poverty among children in Ireland1.
Groups not counted include Traveller children, children who
are homeless – either in temporary accommodation or
sleeping rough on the streets), children leaving institutional
care and children of asylum seeking families.
Groups of children particularly at risk of experiencing
poverty and social exclusion include:
Children living in welfare dependent or low-income
Children living in lone parent households
Children in families or four or more children
Children with disabilities
Children from the Traveller community
Children from asylum seeking families
Children from immigrant and refugee families
Children who leave school early
Children who leave the juvenile justice system or health
board care
What are the Effects of Poverty on
Children’s Lives?
Children living in poverty can be excluded form activities
considered to be the norm by wider society and their peers.
Previous research found that 13% of poor families were
unable to afford a birthday party for their child, 11% could
not afford to send them on a school trip and 14% could not
afford to give them pocket money. How difficult this
exclusion is are summed up in the words of poor children:
‘The worst thing [about being poor] is being bullied and
being frightened of being beaten up’ (child)
‘Being poor: that’s what I would change. All the kids have
brand names…we haven’t. We stick out and are we’re
picked on. Look at what I’m wearing, these crap runners.
You get picked on for wearing these’ (girl who left school
because of bullying)2
Being in poverty also causes adverse effects on a child’s
education and health. For example, we know that 15% of
young people leave school without a Leaving Cert and that
3% leave without any qualification at all3. We know that up
to 1,000 children do not transfer annually from primary to
secondary school and that one in ten children leave primary
school with serious literacy problems. We know one of the
outcomes of this educational disadvantage is that children
from poor backgrounds who leave school early with few or
no qualifications have significantly higher unemployment
rates than average and earn considerably less than average
Poverty affects not only the health status of children but
their access to health care. Children reliant on the public
health system experience much longer delays in accessing
out-patient and in-patient care than those covered by
private health insurance. Citing the connection between
poverty and ill-health and the importance of removing
financial obstacles to medical treatment for children, the
Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health and
Children has called for the provision of free primary health
care for all children.
How many children and young people are homeless or at
risk of homelessness?
According to the most recent government statistics5, we
know that:
50, 000 children are currently in need of housing and
are on local authority housing waiting lists with their
There are a total of 1,405 children who are homeless
with their families in Ireland6.
1,140 children are homeless with their families in the
Dublin area alone. The majority of these children are
under 12 years of age, and over half of these children
are under 5 years of age.
588 unattached homeless children were dealt with by
Health Boards in 2000.
Approximately 3,000 children within the 1,200
Traveller families are living on the roadside without
piped water or electricity.
What is the Experience of
Homelessness for Children?
Research shows us the negative impact on children’s
schooling, health, ability to maintain friendships, and
overall well-being of living in overcrowded and confined
space with little or no access to play and recreational
facilities. The following quotes from parents of children out
of home reinforce this7:
‘I can see it in their little faces, like, in other words, they
do be depressed and sometimes very sad’
(Mother, 3 Children living in emergency accommodation)
‘It [homelessness] affects them more mentally than
physically… like their heads are a bit confused and
muddled up form moving from here to here and not
knowing what’s going on’
(Father, 5 children living in emergency accommodation)
He’s no friends here. He’s basically just sitting around here.
That’s what he does all day. He’s totally mixed up. His
health is very poor. He’s a lot of psychological problems and
all. It’s just totally mixed up altogether. He doesn’t know
whether he is coming or going’
(mother, 5 children living in emergency accommodation)
What are Government Commitments
to End Child Poverty?
The following table gives a short summary of government
policy commitments to end child poverty.
National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS) 2002-2007
and National Action Plan against Poverty and Social
Exclusion (NAPincl) 2003-2005
Commitments made to eliminate child poverty and to move
towards greater equality for all children in terms of access
to education, health and housing.
National Children’s Strategy, 2000.
Promises to provide children ‘with the financial supports
necessary to eliminate child poverty’
Programme for Government, 2002
States that the effort to end child poverty will be ‘a core
element’ of the Government’s work
Sustaining Progress, 2003-2005
(social partnership agreement)
Restates the NAPS commitment and established ‘Ending
Child Poverty’ as one of the Ten Special Initiatives to be
undertaken over the lifetime of the Agreement.
Health Strategy, 2001
Commitment made to substantially expand Medical Card
eligibility so as to include an additional 200,000 low
income people, taking particular account of the needs of
families with children
Education (Welfare) Act, 2001
Established the National Educational Welfare Board and
provided for Education Welfare Officers to encourage
regular school attendance and develop strategies to reduce
absenteeism and early school leaving.
Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act, 1998
Obliges local authorities to provide accommodation for
Traveller families
Homelessness: An Integrated Strategy
Prioritised the elimination of the use of Bed and Breakfast
accommodation for families other than in emergencies and
then for only a short term, ideally no longer than 1 month.
Who are the End Child Poverty
Coalition (ECPC) and what do
they do?
Focus Ireland is a founding member organisation of the
End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC). ECPC comprises seven
national organisation working in partnership to promote
greater public awareness of poverty in Ireland and for
public policies and actions that contribute to the ending of
child poverty by the Government’s target date of 2007. The
seven partner organisations are:
Children’s Rights Alliance
Focus Ireland
National Youth Council of Ireland
Pavee Point
OPEN – One Parent Exchange and Network
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
More information and materials can be found the ECPC
ECPC’s most recent submission to government was on
Budget 2005. In it we argued that none of the
government’s strategies, initiatives and commitments to
end child poverty will come to fruition without adequate
funding. We argue that tackling child poverty requires the
development of a comprehensive, fully-resourced and
sustained programme of action that can address the
multi-dimensional nature of child poverty.
In short, we argue that there are 5 key areas where Budget
2005 should act to make a decisive impact on meeting the
commitment to end child poverty.
1. Implement the promised increase in Child Benefit to
provide monthly payment fo €149.90 for 1st and 2nd
child, and €185.40 for 3rd and subsequent children.
2. Equalise and increase the Child Dependent Allowances
(CDAs) to €28. Budget 2006 should then increase
CDAs to €30, and Budget 2007 to €35.
3. Ensure that the numbers of children and families
covered by the medical card should return to at least
the 2001 figure during 2005.
4. Provide sufficient funding to acquire, enable and
provide 10,000 social housing units in 2005.
5. Adequately resource the National Educational Welfare
Board to ensure that full implementation of the
Education Welfare Act, 2000.
1 Living in Ireland Survey 1994-2001.
2 Daly, M and Leonard, M. (2002) Against All Odds: Family life on a low income in Ireland, Combat Poverty Agency, Dublin.
4 Fitzgerald, E. (2004) Counting Our Children: an analysis of official data sources on children a and childhood in Ireland, Children’s Research Centre, Dublin.
5 Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Assessment of Housing Need, 2002.
6 Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Assessment of Youth Homelessness, 2002.
7 Halpenny, A.M., Keogh, A.F. and Gilligan, R. (2002) A Place for Children? Children and families living in emergency accommodation, Children’s Research Centre, TCD and
Homeless Agency, Dublin.
Focus Ireland, 9-12 High Street, Dublin 8
Tel: 01 8815900 Fax: 01 8815950 email: [email protected]