ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Children in Disadvantaged Communities(Barnardos, 2003) BarnardosAs ChildLinks goes to print, the 2004 A Public Spending Estimates have been announced and the policies which will be copperfastened in the 2004 Budget are clear The Government has chosen to implement cuts in a manner which will have greatest impact on the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. For example, the sixteen cuts in social welfare entitlements will have a direct impact on lone parents, the unemployed and those who are in receipt of rent allowances and diet supplements. The Government had alternative choices: for example, they could have chosen to widen the tax base to increase the tax take from corporate tax, capital gains tax, and property tax and used this revenue to protect the most marginalised. For many N.G.O.s in the child and family sector, it is a time of disillusionment and uncertainty. Many N.G.Os, particularly those in receipt of Department of Health funding, have already had to work off reduced budgets in 2003. Given the reality of rising staff costs and the need for N.G.Os to retain competitiveness with the statutory/semistate employers, reduced statutory funding means a reduction in programmes and services. The common message being articulated across Child and Family Services, Community Employment schemes, Family Resource Centres, Youth Services and Educational Projects, is one of severe budgetary pressure and service reduction. In addition, contrary to Government policy as expressed in the White Paper Supporting Voluntary Activity, many Government departments and agencies who were implementing multi-annual funding, have now reverted to annualised funding. This makes strategic planning for N.G.O.s very difficult to implement. This external environment is also very anti-development for N.G.O.s and has the danger of having a repressive effect on service development and expansion. What is the impact of public expenditure retrenchment for disadvantaged communities? Below inflation increases or no increases are effective cuts. And the impact of these cuts will be felt disproportionately in disadvantaged communities. Longer waiting lists for Child and Family Support Services, reduced subsidies for childcare places, reduction in services dependant on Community Employment schemes, will impact directly on the quality of life of people living in disadvantaged communities So how do the N.G.Oss across the child and family support sector respond? At organisational level, many agencies will be involved in finalising their own budgets for 2004 and dealing with difficult resource decisions. At an inter-agency level it is imperative that we proactively respond through the various alliances and sectoral groupings to campaign against the cuts, highlighting the damage which the Government has inflicted on already vulnerable communities and arguing that these services need to receive substantially increased resources in next year's Estimates and Budget. The positive outcomes achieved by the Arts sector, which challenged the 2003 funding cuts with significant success, should offer encouragement to us all. We need, as a sector, to begin to organise now to achieve a change in Government policy next year. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Children with Special Needs(Barnardos, 2003) BarnardosChildren Living Without is the title of an advocacy and public awareness campaign focusing on child poverty which is currently being run by Barnardos. Children going to school hungry e Children going to school with no socks or underwear e Children dropping out of school at 6th class, but nobody notices e White bread for dinner again e Children bullied because of a lisp — but it will be too late by the time it takes to get a speech therapy appointment in two years. These snapshots of child poverty may be reminiscent of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes but actually they are drawn from Barnardos' experience with children and families in post- Celtic Tiger Ireland. The government's own publication The National Children's Strategy: Our Children — Their Lives refers to the existence of child poverty as a denial of the basic right of a child to an adequate standard of living, as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the rights of the child which Ireland ratified in 1992. It is a scandal and simply unacceptable that in spite of numerous reports, research studies and government commitments 90,000 children live in consistent poverty. Barnardos and many other like-minded agencies will be making the case for child poverty to be addressed by the forthcoming budget, across a range of measures. The time for action is now, The concept of Children Living Without will be familiar to many children with special needs and by that | am referring to inadequacies that exist in service provision relative to children's needs. Indeed for families living on low incomes, the costs associated with disability can cause great hardship. Children with special needs can face major barriers to their participation in everyday life in many areas, such as childcare, education, transport, play and recreation. It is timely in this the European Year of People with Disabilities that the theme of this edition of ChildLinks is children with special needs and features articles on the experience of young people living with disability, models of inclusion, public play provision as well as models of practice. At the time of writing, the disability sector awaits the publication of the promised rights based Disability Bill. On the other hand the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2003 has been generally welcomed. Both of these pieces of legislation will have profound implications on the well-being of children with special needs in the years to come. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Alcohol and Families(Barnardos, 2003) BarnardosThe theme of this issue of ChildLinks is the misuse of alcohol in Ireland and its detrimental impact on children, young people and families. For many years the major focus of concern was on underage drinking and there can be no doubt that underage drinking is a real and increasing problem as indicated by recent research findings. ° Over half of Ireland's young people begin experimenting with alcohol before the age of 12. ° Half of girls and two-thirds of boys age 16 years old drink regularly. ° One-third of 16-year-olds report binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks in a row) 3 or more times a month. However it also must be acknowledged that alcohol consumption in the adult population has increased significantly and Dr. Ann Hope provides a useful summary of the recent research data in her article "Protecting Children and Adolescents: Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full?" The Irish are drinking more than ever before, many adults drink excessively when they drink and the consumption of spirits has increased by over 51% mainly due to the successful marketing of ‘alcopops’. According to Dr. Hope the estimated cost of alcohol related problems to Irish society is €24 billion per annum, inclusive of health services, road accidents, social welfare payments, alcohol related crime and lost productivity. The €2.4 billion figure does not include the personal, emotional and financial hardship suffered by individuals and their families. Barnardos, as a leading provider of child and family support services, is only too well aware of the detrimental impact of alcohol misuse on children, young people and families. In December 2002 Barnardos launched the "Families Under the Influence" campaign which aims to change the deep-rooted and damaging culture of excessive drinking in Irish culture. As part of the campaign Barnardos has recently succeeded in getting all political parties to sign a pledge that they will always put the interests of children first in matters to do with alcohol. Other key recommendations of "Families Under the Influence" include: e An effective and enforced ban on alcohol advertising aimed at youth audiences. ° Substantial resources to fund a range of recreational facilities which would provide young people with real alternatives. ° The replacement of alcohol sponsorship of sports. ° A major review and public debate on the effectiveness of current under age drinking measures. In this issue of ChildLinks Dr Ann Hope provides an overview of the Department of Health and Children's perspective on alcohol and children. Dr Shane Butler provides a summary of recent research data and debates the problem of alcohol misuse in a social and cultural context. A member of Al-Anon provides interesting insights from personal experience and Kerri Smith and Sarah Meehan explore the issues from the perspective of a child care and family support service provider. Dr. Stephen Rowen presents an insight into the treatment model offered by the Rutland Centre and Dr. Hilda Loughran provides a useful outline of 3 major theoretical perspectives on alcohol problems. A recurring theme referred to by many of the contributors is the need for child care/child protection services and addiction specialists to collaborate. In particular Dr. Shane Butler argues for the education and training of child care professionals on the management of alcohol problems. It is hoped that this issue of ChildLinks will inform child care professionals and contribute to the ongoing debate on the problems of and solutions to the misuse of alcohol.