Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ireland's child poverty

Consistent child poverty almost doubled during the recent economic recession according to a new report from the independent think tank TASC. The data in Cherishing All Equally 2016, the first annual update of TASC’s 2015 report on economic inequality in Ireland. Shows the proportion of children living in consistent poverty nearly doubled, going from 6% in 2008 to 11% in 2014. 

“This equates to 138,000 children, or one in eight, living in consistent poverty,” said lead author of the report, Dr Rory Hearne, “This can be contrasted to the adult consistent poverty rate of 7.9% in 2014 and 2.1% for those aged 65 and over. Of all households with children, lone parents have the highest poverty and deprivation rates – 18.3% of all children in Ireland live in lone parent households.”

Dr Hearne pointed out that the impact of income disparity on educational outcomes becomes stronger as children get older.

“At nine months, the level of household income a child is born into has no correlation with their inherent cognitive potential. But by the age of three, those in higher income families are performing better with a difference of at least 10 points in the average scores on the Naming Vocabulary tests,” Dr Rory Hearne explained. “At age nine years, a 1% increase in household income is predicted to increase reading score by 5.16% and maths scores by 5.1%. Again at age nine, children in the bottom income deciles are disproportionately more affected by learning disabilities – the incidence of speech and language difficulties amongst children aged nine in the bottom three deciles are double the incidence for children in the top three deciles.”

The report highlighted the key factors contributing to economic inequality in Ireland, which include low paid jobs, low hours employment, precarious employment and unemployment. The impact of poverty on children’s well-being is “profound” says the report, laying the “foundation at a young age for the huge inequalities that emerge later in education and life”. Some of harshest cuts during the recession hit women worst – including changes to the One Parent Family payment, cuts to carer’s allowances and cuts to child benefit. Of those families becoming homeless two-thirds were headed by lone parents – usually mothers.

Figures released yesterday by the Department of the Environment show almost 1,100 families were homeless at the end of last month, with the number of homeless children at 2,206. That is 67% higher than the numbers for June last year.

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