In 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.
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