Universalism - The Preferred and Most Effective Option

Harvey, B. (2014). Universalism - The Preferred and Most Effective Option. https://knowledge.barnardos.ie/handle/20.500.13085/434
As Ireland emerges from the economic and social crisis, attention will turn to the future society that the country will build for its citizens, including its children. From the 1930s, European countries have struggled with what is the best way to help children, the most favoured being supports provided for all children, called universalism. 1 In recent years, especially at times of financial difficulty, arguments have been presented that state supports should be more narrowly focussed on targeted groups of children (targeting, sometimes also called selection). Evidence finds that not only do alternatives to universalism present serious, costly practical problems, but that targeting leads to worse results, lower levels of benefits for poor households and reinforces inequality. There is compelling evidence that universalism - in both supports and services - works best. Countries with the lowest rates of child poverty are those which have invested most in both cash benefits and public services for children. It is far more efficient to address the ‘richer people benefitting needlessly’ argument by increasing income tax - for the tax system is already designed to be and is effective at redistributing wealth. Universalism is also the most effective way to reinforce the rights of all children.