08 July 2005

One-in-seven children here 'go cold and hungry every day'

Irish Independent

ONE in seven children in Ireland live at such a level of poverty that they often lack such basics as warm clothing and a square meal each day, according to Barnardos.

Fergus Finlay, the head of the children's charity, was speaking as Barnardos launched its annual report yesterday.

Mr Finlay painted a stark picture of Irish children who go through their days experiencing cold and hunger and sometimes not having a bed to sleep on each night.

He said that such is the scale of the problem that despite the work of the charity in helping 12,000 children and their families in the last year, it has "just scratched the surface" of child poverty.

He warned that Ireland cannot be complacent simply because it has achieved unprecedented economic properity.

Mr Finlay said that despite this prosperity, "148,000 children still live in consistent poverty. It remains a mystery as to how the notion of a Celtic tiger can be embraced, yet the concept of poverty is seen as mythical. It is real and it is stalking one in seven of our nation's children".

A person is in 'consistent' poverty when they are living on below 60pc of median income, and in addition they may lack certain basics such as a proper pair of shoes, a winter coat, or one hot meal every day.

Mr Finlay said: "Simply put, we have children living in Ireland who are frequently cold and hungry; who may not have a bed to sleep on; who feel worthless from being constantly told that they don't have a future or any rights at all."

He blamed the situation facing many children in Ireland today on the old attitude that "children should be seen and not heard", and that this had resulted in a nation of "invisible children".

Mr Finlay said: "I grew up in an Ireland that told its children that they should be seen and not heard; speak when they were spoken to; respect their elders.

"We have ended up with a nation of invisible children. They are nowhere in sight when childcare is debated; they are overlooked when provisions in the 2001 Children's Act sit stagnant on government tables; and they are absent from any form of meaningful attempt to respond to children's real needs."

The Barnardos report lists its work over the past 12 months including: helping 12,000 disadvantaged children and their families; providing child and family services through 35 locations across Ireland; representing 75 children involved in court proceedings; and supporting 1,500 parents to improve their parenting skills.

The charity raised a record €16.2m in funds in the year to December 31, 2004, up 27pc on the previous year with 93pc of this being spent directly on work with children.

David Quinn
Social Affairs Correspondent

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