ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Children & Inequality(Barnardos, 2015) BarnardosIn Barnardos pre-election campaign, we calling on all of the political parties to prioritise children in their manifestos. One in nine children in Ireland live in consistent poverty and nearly two in five experience deprivation – this means these children are going hungry, are without a waterproof coat or live in a poorly heated home. 2016 is the centenary of the 1916 Proclamation and, crucially, the centenary of all it promised – including the fundamentally symbolic commitment to cherishing all children equally. We cannot let the election pass without demanding concrete action to address the moral imperative of child poverty. We cannot celebrate the centenary without challenging the many inequalities that allow child poverty to flourish. There are many things that need to happen to challenge inequality. Barnardos is calling for concrete action in five areas of a child’s life: first year of life, early years, education, health and housing. We are demanding change that will have an immediate and real impact on lives as part of a broader strategy to end societal inequality that unfairly affects children. The economy is growing, unemployment is falling, tax cuts are promised in the next Budget. Why, against this background, should we tolerate for a moment longer the kind of choices that are perpetuating poverty and deprivation among Ireland’s children? 2016 must mark a turning point for children in Ireland. It must be the year politicians make the decision to support all children and take concrete steps to end child inequality. Barnardos' key campaign objectives are: 1. Politicians must promise to safeguard the first year of a child’s life and invest sufficiently in Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. 2. Politicians must increase investment in early childhood care and education to meet the international average of 0.8% of GDP. 3. The State must provide free primary education. This would require an annual investment of €103.2m, equating to just €185 extra per pupil. 4. Politicians must guarantee access to primary care services for all children when they need it. This would require a guarantee of one fully operational Primary Care Team for every 1,500 children. 5. Politicians must promise to ensure a secure home for all children by stabilising rents over time by linking rental prices to the Consumer Price Index and raising rent supplement levels to help struggling families now. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Play(Barnardos, 2015) BarnardosInvestment in children in Budget 2016 is a positive first step towards building a fairer future for children in Ireland. Extra investment to extend childcare services, including an earlier start date for joining the free preschool year, paid paternity leave and an increase in child benefit will be welcomed by tens of thousands of Irish families. However, these measures must be followed up with sustained investment and action for it to have a true and lasting impact on those families who have spent years struggling against poverty and inequality. In this issue of ChildLinks we look at the issue of Play. Play is one of the key features in how a child learns and is an important factor in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Play situations give young children the opportunity to explore the world around them, learn new skills and build connections with others, both socially and emotionally. Play can also be a means through which a child copes with difficult situations and emotions. While stress, change and upheaval cannot always be avoided, it can make a great difference to a child to be able to play in a way that helps them to deal with feelings such as frustration, fear, bewilderment, confusion, hurt and loss. This issue examines children’s play stories and the importance to children of being included in play with others. It also looks at play in Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education in Ireland, and the need for early years educators to have an understanding and knowledge of both child development and the stages and types of children’s play in order to provide appropriate play opportunities and materials. This issue of ChildLinks also examines the therapeutic value of play and how play therapy can provide children with an opportunity to ‘play out’ their thoughts, feelings and problems in a non-directive way, and in a safe environment with a caring therapist. Two further articles give information on research studies. One study looks at the play interactions of infants under two within the home physical environment. The study explores and identifies ways in which young children develop and learn to negotiate objects and spaces of everyday life in the home. The second study explores how fathers and mothers interact with their babies and toddlers, and how different styles of interactions are related to characteristics of the mothers, fathers, and the children themselves. It asks questions such as, Do parents systematically interact differently with boys in comparison with girls? Do fathers engage in higher levels of physical play than mothers? ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Language Development in the Early Years(Barnardos, 2015) BarnardosThe recent Supreme Court ruling on the 31st amendment to the Constitution of Ireland finally passed the Children’s Referendum. The insertion of an article enshrining children’s rights into Ireland’s Constitution ushers in a new era of support and protection for all children. We look forward to seeing the real impact of this historic amendment in the coming months and years: improved support and protection for children in our laws and policies, and young people who feel truly valued members of the Irish society. In this issue of ChildLinks we look at the issue of language development. Language acquisition is a skill that we largely take for granted, despite the fact that it is estimated that 1 in 10 children have speech and language difficulties and are at serious risk of social isolation and real educational disadvantage. Language and communication are central to the development of social, emotional and academic development. While the majority of children acquire language without difficulty, there are some who struggle to develop language and may regularly experience frustration and even failure in their communication. Research points to a very high incidence of speech, language and communication needs in lower socioeconomic groups. All those interacting with babies and small children play a role in the development of their communication skills. The creation of communication-friendly environments is therefore essential in all early years settings. In her article in this issue of ChildLinks, Speech and Language Therapist Patricia Curtis outlines the growing demand for support in encouraging language development for all children and the role of the speech and language therapist in providing this support in early years settings. Máire Mhic Mhathúna of Dublin Institute of Technology then looks at the value of fostering positive attitudes towards all languages, including Irish, local English and children’s other home languages, and the increasing emphasis on the importance of developing children’s oral language in government documents. The following three articles present a number of initiatives in Ireland that support language development in young children: The Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) Early Intervention Speech and Language Therapy in the disadvantaged area of Tallaght West; The Language Support Initiative in The Dublin South West Inner City Parent and Child Hub; and Happy Talk, a language development project that works in the areas of The Glen and Mayfield in Cork City. The final article in this issue looks at the long-term impacts of speech, language and communication needs and how these impact of other aspects of a child’s development, highlighting the importance of early intervention.