ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Children's Participation(Barnardos, 2005) BarnardosThis issue of ChildLinks is devoted to the theme of children’s participation. The concept of children’s participation is firmly accepted in the minds of practitioners and policy-makers alike. Hopefully the sharing of insights into the theory and practice of children’s participation will be of use to ChildLinks readers and I want to thank all our contributors for sharing their learning and experience on this important issue. Children’s participation is closely related to the issue of children’s rights which at a macro level is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Ireland ratified the 1989 UNCRC without reservation in 1992 but what many people do not realise is that the UNCRCC has not yet been implemented into Irish legislation. Recently the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution called for submissions on the question of children’s rights. Barnardos’ submission focused on the need for the Constitution to be amended to include an article which expressly guarantees and secures the protection of children’s rights and which reflects the terms of the UNCRC. As far back as 1993, the report of the Kilkenny Incest Investigation stated that “the Constitution should contain a specific and overt declaration to the rights of born children.” Subsequently in 1996 the Constitution Review Group urged that children be given new explicit rights and that the Constitution should expressly require that in law the best interests of the child should be the paramount consideration. This is particularly important to ensure that vulnerable children are fully protected. Barnardos works with a number of extremely vulnerable children from a very young age through to their teens who are suffering distress and anxiety because of precarious situations they have been placed in.The Irish Constitution fails to recognise the child as an individual in their own right and child welfare and child protection can be compromised as a result. A change in the Constitution would help to change the culture and practice in child protection cases and ensure the best protection for extremely vulnerable children. Barnardos also recommends that the terms of the UNCRC, should be strongly reflected in the Constitution. Article 3.1 of the Convention states that in "in all actions concerning children…the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration." It is encouraging to note that the submission to the Oireachtas Committee from the Ombudsman for Children as well as many NGOs involved in working with children and in the family law arena were in agreement in regard to this area of constitutional reform. Children’s needs and children’s rights must be made paramount. The importance of this constitutional review and the opportunity to effect positive change in the lives of children cannot be over estimated.The Oireachtas and the Government must take action to safeguard children’s rights. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Children & Loss(Barnardos, 2005) BarnardosThe issue of child poverty is still very prevalent in Ireland today. Although in many cases it is hidden poverty in that it is not as visible or public as the effects say of the famine on the children in Niger, nonetheless its effects can still last a lifetime. The latest statistics from the Combat Poverty Agency (2005) Ending Child Poverty report reveal that 148,000 children aged 0-18 years were living in consistent poverty in 2003 – this represents 14.6% of all children who were living in households with incomes below 60% of the national median income and experiencing enforced basic deprivation. This equates to one in seven children living in consistent poverty. Barnardos believes this scale of child poverty is unacceptable given the overall economic and employment growth that Ireland has experienced in the recent past. For the children themselves it results in a loss of opportunity and a sense of exclusion, as they are unable to participate fully in society to the same extent as other children. This loss of opportunity means that children living in poverty can experience higher incidences of literacy difficulties, early school leaving, poorer health and, at a later stage, more frequent spells of unemployment. In response to child poverty, the Government has placed a far greater emphasis on income support for families and less on subsidised quality services for children. While there has been progress in relation to access to childcare for children from poorer families, there are still many parents who cannot access quality and affordable childcare. In addition there has been inadequate investment by the Government in health services, primary education and housing. Both the Combat Poverty Agency and the National Economic and Social Council in their report Developmental Welfare State (2005) call for much greater investment in public services. Also the National Children’s Strategy (2000) prioritises as one of its national goals that children will receive quality supports and services. ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Child Poverty(Barnardos, 2005) BarnardosBarnardos has welcomed the NESF report Early Childhood Care and Education and believes that it has set out a framework for the development of early childhood care and education over the next ten years. In particular we welcome the proposal for one years universal quality free early childhood care and education provision for pre-school children. We welcome the importance attached to child development, diversity of provision, flexibility of choice for parents and the proposed child and family centres. This edition of ChildLinks focuses on the theme of child poverty with a range of articles presented from research, policy, theoretical advocacy and practice perspectives. The Barnardos Seven Steps plan towards ending child poverty is outlined which is relevant to the current media and political focus on childcare. Evaluations of early years programmes have shown that participation in such programmes has a positive impact on children's cognitive, social and emotional development, school readiness and school performance, particularly for children who are most disadvantaged. Accordingly, Barnardos is recommending that in the short term universal quality free early childhood education and care be made available as a priority to children who are disadvantaged. The 2005 budget has taken a first step in tackling the childcare crisis and lifting one in seven children in Ireland out of poverty, but unfortunately significant opportunities have been missed. Critically, the budget did not address the need fora free one year preschool place for all children. A payment of €19 per week (i.e. the early childcare supplement) will not make childcare more affordable for parents caught in the poverty trap. It is hoped that the decision to delegate to the Minister for Children responsibility for childcare, child protection and welfare, juvenile justice and early years education will also give greater priority to the issue of child poverty.