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Kennan and Landy on Budget 2010: Children’s Rights

You can learn more about Danielle Kennan and Fergal Landy on our guest contributors page.

Before reviewing the child specific impact of the 2010 budget it is important to take a whole child/whole system approach by highlighting the overall impact on low income families and the knock on effect this will have on children. TASC, an independent economic think tank, describes this budget as ‘particularly harsh for those struggling to survive on low incomes’, as ‘reinforcing inequality’ and delivering ‘cuts that will impact hardest on those at the bottom of Ireland’s incomes heap’. Over the coming weeks the potential impact of cuts on children that are not immediately evident require a comprehensive child impact assessment of this budget using the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a reference point.

Child Benefit

The Government introduced a 10% reduction in Child Benefit, despite a vigorous campaign by advocacy groups, including Barnardos and  PACUB (a coalition of five organisations, OPEN, One Family, Children’s Rights Alliance and National Women’s Council of Ireland), opposing cuts to child benefit in the run up to Budget 2010.

Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance, stated in his budget speech that there were “legal and logistical reasons” why he could not at this stage means test or tax child benefit thereby making it more equitable. As a result, there is an across the board reduction in child benefit by €16 per month. However, for welfare dependant families there will be an increase in Qualified Child Allowance by €3.80 per week. Also for low income families in receipt of Family Income Supplement (FIS), earning thresholds will be increased by €6 per week per child.

While Barnardos welcomed the €3.80 weekly increase to the Qualified Child Allowance and indications that those on Family Income Supplement will be compensated, this is offset against the €14 a week cut in adult social welfare rates. Barnardos believe the accumulative effect will be “devastating” for families dependant on social welfare and low income families.

Implementation of the Ryan Report Recommendations

It is stated in the Summary of Budget Measures that “the implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Report will be provided for in 2010.” The details of this allocation are to be set out in the 2010 Revised Estimates Volume.

A press release by the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMYCA) provides further information, stating that the allocation will be in the order of €15million. According to the OMYCA this provision will “support survivors of abuse through the allocation of additional resources for counselling and facilitate the recruitment of not less than 200 additional social workers.”

However, it is disappointing that a reference to the implementation of the recommendations of the Ryan Report was not included in the Ministers speech and no concrete provision was made yesterday for their implementation. As the Children Rights Alliance notes in their post budget press release, “the Minister’s speech rightly focused on responding to 2009 issues: the credit crunch, floods, the environment, cross-border shopping and Ted Kennedy.  But the Minister’s speech failed to acknowledge the major child abuse scandals that have touched every household in the country and is having international repercussions around the world.  Where is the Government’s financial commitment to our child protection and care systems, in response to the Ryan and Murphy reports?”.

Constitutional Referendum on Children’s Rights

Three million euro has been allocated in 2010 in connection with holding a constitutional referendum on the rights of the child. This would suggest a commitment to holding the referendum in the forthcoming year.

Statutory Agencies

There is to be no change in the budget allocated to the Office of the Ombudsman for Children. According to the Estimates, there is to be a 9% reduction in the budget of the Family Support Agency (FSA). While this is a significant cut, it does not go as far as the McCarthy Report recommendation calling for the discontinuation of the FSA.

Education

Following the cuts in the 2009 supplementary budget, the 2010 Estimates provide for the implementation of Government Programme commitments in some of the following areas: provision of 500 additional teachers over 3 years, as well as additional teachers to meet demographic pressures and ensure no further increase in the Pupil-teacher ratio; and the Capitation Grants are to be maintained and additional resources provided for books and curricular activities. The Department of Education reports that they are prioritising the capital programme in education, with €794 million allocated for 2010.

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