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Barnardos calls for more funds for vulnerable children

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

Original Source KITTY HOLLAND CONTINUED INVESTMENT in services for vulnerable children is essential despite the economic downturn, one of the State’s leading economists has said. Prof John Fitzgerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said early intervention in vulnerable children’s lives was vital if potential economic and social costs were to be tackled. Speaking at the publication of the Barnardos report for 2007 in Dublin yesterday, he said even before the current economic difficulties it was clear the boom of the last decade had not solved all, or even most, of the problems besetting the most disadvantaged children. According to the report, the workload of Barnardos increased by 10 per cent last year compared to 2006. The charity worked with 5,333 children and young people and their families in 2007. “The children and young people we worked with displayed multiple needs and were exposed to a range of risks,” says the report. More than half the children Barnardos worked with had risk factors associated with their emotional wellbeing. More than half had risks associated with poor family and social relationships. About 45 per cent had issues with negative behaviour and social participation, and about 35 per cent risked poor education and learning outcomes. Fergus Finlay, chief executive of the charity, said there would be intense pressure on Ministers in the run up to the Estimates to deliver spending cuts. “And the temptation will be to make easy cuts; the sort that will not offend any powerful lobby group or vested interest. But we also know that it is the hidden cuts that can do the most damage.” Mr Finlay said the root cause of most of the needs of at-risk children was poverty. “They are the sort of needs that break down resilience in a child, that make it even harder for them to benefit from education and to play a productive role in their communities. And failure to address those needs can lead to the continued growth of a gang culture, to more anti-social behaviour, to crime and alienation. “For that reason alone the communities that failed to benefit from the Celtic Tiger must not now be expected to bear the burden of present retrenchment, however necessary that retrenchment is.” He said providing supports for vulnerable children as early as possible was a shrewd way to spend public money, and much more effective than trying to address problems caused by early neglect later in life. “World-leading economists, including the Nobel prize winning Prof James Heckman, have proven that intervening early in a vulnerable child’s life will reap enormous long-term savings. “Basically, for every euro invested there is at least an eight-fold return as future savings are made in areas such as unemployment benefit, crime, rehabilitation programmes, job training and teenage pregnancies.” Prof Fitzgerald said increased investment in education was not enough to solve the issues facing the most disadvantaged children. Complex issues required complex interventions. “While education may be the key to participation in modern Irish society it does not represent a simple panacea for society’s ills. “The fact that progress on increasing educational participation has stalled at an unacceptably low level reflects wider problems affecting children in Ireland who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. “The key to further progress is more effective intervention, especially in the early years of children’s lives, to ensure those still being failed by the system get a fair start in life.” © 2008 The Irish Times

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