Tomorrow's Child

Harvey, B. (2008). Tomorrow's Child.
It is a truism to say that there is only one certainty in trying to predict the future, which is that one is normally wrong. Throughout recorded history, philosophers, sociologists, scientists and economists have tried to do so, with greater or lesser degrees of foresight. The hazardous nature of such an undertaking does not invalidate its purpose, though. Voluntary organisations, like Barnardos, who take their strategic development seriously are entitled to make an assessment of the environment in which they expect to work so they may plan accordingly. Here, this exercise is specifically focused on what future may lie ahead for children in Ireland over the next decade and beyond, hence its title Tomorrow’s Child. The research is rooted in the present, for it draws on social trends which are already observed and documented (though that does not mean that they cannot be reversed). The Tomorrow’s Child report attempts to take a broad view of trends affecting Irish children and how they may evolve, covering such issues as demography, social issues, play, education, leisure, the role of technology and health. Chapters conclude with predictions for the future for tomorrow’s child. Ideally, this exercise will inform as well as stimulate people to consider how they should plan ahead. It comes with a health warning, for although information on the situation of Irish children has improved enormously in the last 10 years or so, our knowledge up to the end of the last century was sketchy. Trying to identify trends affecting children over a longer period of time is a challenging exercise. Moreover, this research was conducted in spring 2008 at a time when economic conditions were becoming unusually volatile, making the extrapolation of trends more risky than usual. This is a study of social trends, not a policy report. But one cannot and should not separate social trends from the economic, social and environmental policies in which children grow up. Although there are many positive trends for Irish children today, it is impossible not to be struck by the persistence of child poverty, the low level of public services for children in need and unequal access to opportunities, education and health because of social class. These are not just social trends, but political choices. Accordingly, Tomorrow’s Child is set in the policy context in which children find themselves.