MUCH has been written in recent weeks about looking after the needs of our ageing population with the Citizens’ Assembly making recommendations to the Oireachtas about how this may be best done in the coming decades. However, it is vital that the needs of the younger generation are properly catered for too as they are the future of the country and those who will ultimately be paying for the care of the elderly out of their taxes, assuming they will find it attractive enough to live and work here.
Their experience growing up will dictate that and, if we are to cherish our children – as the Constitution urges us to – the necessary supports need to be in place for the most vulnerable of them. Children are often the forgotten victims of homelessness and Ireland has unacceptably-high child poverty rates, mainly due to family circumstances.
This poverty is not just financial; it’s often also emotional and developmental. This generates a greater need for State support services and children’s charity Barnardos, in its pre-Budget submission to government is urging it to invest in services that would support and empower families to protect and encourage children’s development.
For a start, it wants an additional €20m allocated to Tusla’s budget and ring-fenced exclusively for preventative work; €54m annually for the next five years to clear waiting lists that prevent children from accessing vital health assessments and treatments; introducing genuinely free primary education at the cost of €103.2m per annum (an extra yearly cost-per-pupil of just €185); more social housing units to increase supply and reduce the over-reliance on the private rented sector; continuing investment in early childhood care and education but with particular focus on improving quality in services by raising capitation rates, supporting trained staff and including childminders.
It is quite a shopping list, but it is not demanding anything unreasonable either and deserves serious consideration by government when framing Budget 2018.