Budget 2023 goes further than any before to address the cost of education but fails to deliver enough effective targeted supports for the most disadvantaged children

Commenting on Budget 2023 measures announced today, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said;

“Framed as a ‘cost of living budget’, what we are seeing today is a suite of measures to help families keep their heads just above water.  Budget 2023 has gone further than any previous budget when it comes to the cost of education with the inclusion of the long-awaited free school books for primary school children. However, it fails to deliver enough effective targeted measures to help the most disadvantaged children and young people.  

The cost of education has a significant impact on families, particularly those most  disadvantaged. For years, we have heard from parents about how much stress and pressure they are under to simply get their children out the door to school. Many have nothing left over after the costs of books to afford after extra-curricular or school trips. Removing this barrier is a significant step towards delivering free education but we need to see the detail in how this will be rolled out. On education, Ireland falls behind our European counterparts and even closer to home, Northern Ireland who have been providing free books for years. We know that every child will benefit from this measure, but we particularly welcome the huge difference and certainty this secures for the disadvantaged children and families.”

Commenting on other measures for children and young people, Legal, Policy and Services Director, Julie Ahern said;

“Ireland has one of the highest childcare costs in all of Europe and given the current cost of living crisis, it is essential that this year’s budget makes inroads in how affordable we make these services. We welcome the reduction in the cost of childcare which will alleviate some pressure from families across the country. 

However, to retain qualified staff that ensure high quality service for children, they must be paid accordingly. The devil will be in the detail tomorrow to determine just how far Budget 2023 goes to deliver this. Successive investments in the budget will determine where we can set the bar for the quality of service we want to see for our youngest citizens. ”

“The public are well aware that we are heading into one of the toughest winters. Given the current cost of living crisis, any increase in the core social welfare payments is welcome as these payments are a core lifeline for so many families. However, the Government must look beyond the next four months in our national annual budget. Families are being pulled into poverty by the rising cost of living, exacerbating difficulties that existed before.

For families with young children, incomes have to stretch even further to cover just the basics. It is most welcome to see an increase in the Working Family Payment threshold by €40 a week and a once-off payment which will reach more families on low incomes.

However, to just stand still, Budget 2023 had to invest in the qualified child increase (QCI; a  welfare payment for children available for parents who are on social welfare) but today’s announcement falls short of what is needed. We know that families with older children have much higher costs and they will not reap the benefits of some of the more robust measures announced today like free primary school books. For these families, an increase in the QCI would have been a crucial intervention.”

The QCI increases announced today bring the weekly payment to €42 for children under 12 and €50 for those over 12, however this is only an additional €2 per week. This simply will not be enough to support children on the brink of poverty and is far below what is needed to prevent more families falling into poverty.”

“The objective for this year’s budget was to help people through the challenges Ireland is currently facing. For that very reason, it is disappointing to see children and young people living in direct provision being left behind in today’s budget. The unequal treatment of these children and young people cannot continue. These families already receive the lowest social welfare payments in the State. They won’t get to experience the impact of the welcome increases in child benefit as they cannot avail of it. We have been calling for a similar payment to be made available for these children. The Government’s own White Paper committed to payment increases. This year’s budget has yet to deliver on this promise,” concluded Julie Ahern.

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