Breaking Point: Why Investment is Needed Now to Ensure the Sustainability of Quality Services for Children and Families
Just Economics. (2019). Breaking Point: Why Investment is Needed Now to Ensure the Sustainability of Quality Services for Children and Families. https://knowledge.barnardos.ie/handle/20.500.13085/313
This year marks ten years since Barnardos agreed to temporary cuts to the funding for services they deliver on behalf of the State under Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Despite a sustained economic recovery, and the fact that Ireland is once again - on all economic measures - one of the richest countries in the EU, funding has never been restored. In fact, the freeze on cost of living increases has meant that funding has continued to decline in real terms year on year. The constrained funding environment is rapidly becoming unsustainable for the organisations that deliver services and for communities that are experiencing rising levels of need. This report summarises the findings of research (see Appendix 1) carried out by Just Economics between March and June 2019 into the impact of funding cuts on Barnardos and the wider sector delivering services for children and families. The research identifies two pathways by which false economies arise from efforts to make short term savings. First, we highlight the significant pressures on services due to the cuts, and the risks that unmet needs will lead to escalating, and more costly downstream problems. Notably these cuts have fallen hardest on intensive family support services provided on behalf of the State which enable it to fulfil its statutory obligation under the Childcare Act. Second, we show how historic and persistent underfunding of public services at the national level have led to poor policy performance by Ireland relative to peer economies. In particular, a failure to prioritise upstream preventative services has led to a high prevalence of avoidable social problems. This is brought into sharp focus by Ireland’s laggard position on an index of European countries for both social problems and spending. The paper makes a case for both incremental and transformative change to improve Ireland’s position and create a better, more equal society for its citizens.