Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2013: Is the Irish Government Keeping Its Promises to Children?
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The Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government has been awarded an overall C grade today (18 February) in the Children’s Rights Alliance’s Report Card 2013 – a slight drop in grade from last year’s C+ grade. In a year that saw a Children’s Rights Referendum and key work in overhauling the child protection system, the grade will disappoint many. This highly anticipated annual publication scrutinises Government on its promises to children, made in the Programme for Government 2011-2016.
Top of the class is the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, under the direction of Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who gains an A grade for strengthening children’s constitutional rights and an overall B- grade for steps to better protect children from abuse and neglect. An additional win is a B+ grade for the promised closure of St Patrick’s Institution – up from an F grade last year. Sharing the top spot is Minister Ruairi Quinn and the Department of Education and Skills, receiving an overall B- grade for solid progress, particularly in literacy, patronage and school buildings.
Unfortunately, not all departments are prioritising children effectively and are dragging down the overall grade. At the bottom of the class is the Department of Social Protection, receiving an F grade – a FAIL – for child poverty. Harsh measures in Budget 2013 hit the poorest families hardest and this grade reflects its devastating impact on children. The Department of Health is failing to perform, with an overall D grade for its work in Health. There is an under-spend in Mental Health, inaction on alcohol misuse and delays in Primary Care and the Children’s Hospital. Overall, Government has failed to support migrant or Traveller children or to address family inequalities, resulting in an overall E+ grade.
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “Report Card 2013 is a mixed bag. Overall, Government has done worse this year, slipping down to a C grade, despite getting an A grade for the excellent work in strengthening children’s rights in the Constitution. There is also real progress in child protection, ending the detention of children in St Patrick’s Prison and in education. But children are the real losers in Budget 2013 with cuts to Child Benefit not being reinvested in children’s services and controversies and underspend in health leading to major delays in health reform.”
Judge Catherine McGuinness, Member of the Council of State, said: “Keeping its promise to hold a Children’s Rights Referendum in 2012 has paid dividends. The Government’s ‘A’ grade for its work in this area is deserved. It is a great shame that other departments have not prioritised children as effectively, as it means the overall grade has been dragged down to a ‘C grade’. If we are to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child, then Government as a whole must pull together, with each department playing its role to positively impact on the lives of children.”
Speaking at the launch, Sheila Greene, Professor and Fellow Emeritus, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin, said: “Once again, the invaluable annual report card series from the Children’s Rights Alliance highlights the strengths and weaknesses in official Ireland’s treatment of children. While the recent passing of the Children’s Rights Referendum was undoubtedly a positive marker, the government is failing to live up to many of its promises in relation to children and young people, particularly those who are the most vulnerable.”
Professor Áine Hyland, Emeritus Professor and former Vice-President of UCC, said: “I welcome the improvement in the grades given in the aspects of Education, and look forward to the achievements of the goals set out for 2013.”
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, in summary says: “Unfortunately, we continue to trample on the rights of children. Implementation of mental health policy requires immediate redress, and the under-spend in funds addressed. For the second year in a row, we are failing to protect children from austerity measures. In fact, children are taking the brunt of these harsh measures. Traveller children and migrant children are getting little to no supports. It is heartening to see Government taking clear action to stop the incarceration of young people in St. Patrick’s Institution, but unless Government departments all work together the overall grade will remain a disappointment for those working incredibly hard to make a difference to children’s lives.”
The Children’s Rights Alliance is an Atlantic grantee through the Children & Youth programme in the Republic of Ireland.