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Ministerial Address by Dr. Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Conference:      Making Child Poverty Policies Real Translating Policy   Commitments on Child Poverty into Reality at the National Level


Location:        Chartered Accountants House

            47-49 Pearse Street

            Dublin 2

       

Friday, 24th June 2016

   
Introduction


•    I would like to thank Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance for inviting me to speak at this conference on making child poverty policies real.

•    Today’s conference provides an important opportunity to bring together voluntary organisations, public administrators and experts to discuss the critical issue of reducing child poverty in Ireland.  

•    It presents a challenge which cuts to the heart of my purpose as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

•    The establishment of my Department signified a commitment by the Government to give priority to children’s needs in policy making. 

•    As did the publication of Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, the National Policy Framework for Children and Young People.

•    We have targets, we have commitments, recommendations driving us to deal with issues of child poverty such as:
o    The Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures’ target to take  100,000 children out of consistent poverty by 2020.
o    The EU commitments made to reduce child poverty under Europe 2020.
o    The European Commission Recommendation on Investing in Children.

•    The reduction of child poverty is a key political priority for me.  I have devoted all of my professional life in Ireland to the development of community based approaches to tackling children’s poverty and designing and delivering effective prevention and early intervention strategies to do the same.

•    Following the recent economic crisis, the level of poverty in the European Union including Ireland has increased substantially.  Children and young people have seen the most significant deterioration across Europe in their income and living.

•    According to 2014 EU figures, 30% of under 18s in Ireland were at-risk-of-poverty or exclusion compared to the EU average of nearly 28%.

•    Child poverty is a vital issue for our society because of the negative short term and long term consequences it can have for our children:
o    Poor educational outcomes are experienced by many children from disadvantaged backgrounds which can lead to poor long term employment opportunities 
o    Child poverty leads to fewer children from a disadvantaged background progressing to third level
o    Many of these children also suffer from poor physical health and obesity
o    Child Poverty is also associated with high levels of addiction to legal and illegal substances
o    Poor mental health can be common 
o    It can also be a factor in the levels of criminality in a society.

•    The Government is committed to a multi-dimensional, whole-of-Government approach to tackling child poverty. 

•    I will be working with my colleagues in Government, particularly Minister Varadkar, in ensuring a collaborative approach to tackling child poverty.
Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures: The National Policy Framework for Children and Young People, 2014-2020

•    Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures which was launched by my Department represents a critical step towards our shared objective.

•    Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, provides an over-arching framework for the development and implementation of policy and services for children and young people across Government.

•    It is the key vehicle for improving the lives of children and young people and in recognition of this, I will be leading the Policy Consortium that oversees the work of the Framework to drive key actions, including those on child poverty. 

•    Under Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, my Department is taking the lead in the promotion of the prevention and early intervention goal.

•    Prevention and early intervention means intervening at a young age, or early in the onset of difficulties, or at points of known increased vulnerability such as school transitions, adolescence and parenthood.

•    How we bring about these changes is crucial.  With the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Advisory Council, we have formed two key groups.   One is focused on prevention and early intervention and the other on child poverty. 


•    I am looking forward to seeing their proposals on promoting prevention and early intervention initiatives and combating child poverty.

•    The work of both groups is clearly very closely linked as it is through appropriate targeting and investment at an early stage we can begin to address the causes of child poverty.

•    I am particularly heartened by the engagement of the non-governmental sector in this process.  The Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Advisory Council was the key driver in the development of these groups and has co-convened them with my Department and the Department of Social Protection respectively.

•    I would particularly note the contribution of Tanya and the Children’s Rights Alliance in this regard.

•    I believe we have a model here for how we can transact our business more effectively, pool our experience, our knowledge and our resources.
 EU Peer Review: Prevention and Early Intervention

•    In recognition of the need to learn from and contribute to the EU wide discussion on prevention and early intervention, my Department, in cooperation with the Department of Social Protection, held an EU Peer Review last February. 

•    Ten EU countries took part in the review to explore innovative responses in prevention and early intervention to improve outcomes for children - in particular those experiencing child poverty and disadvantage. 

•    The EU Peer Review discussed key learning from a range of EU countries and NGOs.  Among the points highlighted were:
o    The importance of political will to ensure adequate resources and a long term approach
o    Children’s Rights need to be at the heart of policy and programme development
o    The need for a broad range of policies including universal and targeted services
o    Focus on local level and coordination is important
o    And the need to reach out to children and families most at risk.

•    The learning from this peer review is informing our efforts in embedding prevention and early intervention in services for children and young people in Ireland.
The Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme (2013-2017)

•    An important element of my Department’s work in relation to promoting prevention and early intervention and reducing the level of child poverty is the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme.

•    The Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme (2013-2017) is a joint prevention and early intervention initiative of my Department and The Atlantic Philanthropies.

•    Its aim is to test and evaluate innovative prevention and early intervention approaches, in areas of disadvantage, to improve outcomes for children, in particular children and families living in poverty.

•    The ABC Programme is a time-bound co-funding arrangement between Government and The Atlantic Philanthropies for a joint investment of €29.7m up to 2017.  Thirteen sites around the country are participating in the ABC Programme.

•    The ABC Programme covers in the main Child Health & Development; Children’s Learning; Parenting and Integrated Service Delivery, across a variety of settings including schools, early years settings, and in the home.

•    A key aim of the ABC Programme is to ensure that the learning from the ABC Programme is mainstreamed into general child and family services across the country rather than being focused on specific areas. 

•    We ensuring that the learning from the ABC Programme and related programmes are incorporated into the everyday work of child and family services around the country.

•    The evaluation reports due in 2018 should provide us with valuable information on the best ways to mainstream the learning from the ABC Programme.

•    In parallel, my Department has convened a Task Group to explore how best the mainstreaming of the learning from the ABC programme and related prevention and early intervention initiatives can be progressed and promoted.

•    The results of the ABC Programme evaluation and the work of      the Task Group will play a major role in deciding our approach to mainstreaming the learning from the ABC and related programmes.  

Conclusion


•    In conclusion, I would like to again thank Tanya Ward for inviting me here to speak at this important conference on child poverty. 

•    Child Poverty is a major issue facing our society that demands   new and innovative ways of tackling it.

•    It is incumbent on all of us to drive this process and invest our shared resources.  My Department, the Department of Social Protection and all other Departments of course, but also non-governmental sector who have done so much in this sector.

•    If we move together as one I believe we can bring about the   necessary changes to the lives and experience of children and young people. 

•    I look forward to hearing about your deliberations and how they might be incorporated into our child poverty policies in order to improve the lives of children and families throughout this country.

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