100 signatures reached
To: Leo Varadkar, Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin, TDs
Maintain Children's Voices at the Cabinet Table
Maintain a Minister for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Why is this important?
It is welcome that in the proposed Programme for Government the DCYA appears to be included. It is imperative that DCYA is retained, and the proper support and budget requirements that would allow the Department to fulfil it's duties and responsibilities to children are provided. Children need a strong voice in government now more than ever. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups in society. There are more than 1.25 million children and young people in Ireland. That represents 25% of our population. Children have suffered hugely during Covid—19. They have experienced worry and loss in many ways: illness/death of loved ones, parental unemployment, school closure, transitions and rites of passage have been abruptly cancelled, interrupted friendships, loss of the freedom to be a child, new stress and worry, and much more.
Some of these children will need extra support to help them deal with what they’ve experienced. For some there will be difficulties with addressing the future and adapting to the new and unexpected world that lies ahead. Some will have suffered abuse, neglect, domestic violence and other trauma behind closed doors as their family struggles to survive, and many live without the safe space provided by trusted adults in their extended family, schools, sports clubs, and community services.
Prior to the Covid 19 emergency government figures indicated that 11% or 134,000 children and young people lived in consistent poverty, for example not owning a warm winter coat or being able to heat their home adequately. 3,555 children and young people faced day to day difficulties living in homeless accommodation and another 1,674 in direct provision accommodation.
Many parents had difficulty accessing readily available and appropriate mental health or disability services for their children and teenagers. Additionally many parents were struggling with the cost of quality child care and afterschool care.
These worries and concerns haven’t gone away.
We need a minister focused on children and young people at the cabinet table to continue to develop our children’s services and bring children’s voices to discussions and decisions.
We are deeply concerned about the possibility that the functions of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) may be carved up, subsumed, or amalgamated with other departments in the next government. We are concerned about the possible downgrading of the key role of Minister for Children, and the danger that this will again take us backwards in a history that has not always treated children well.
2011 brought hope for children, with the appointment of the first full ministerial appointment dedicated to the children of Ireland and the establishment of the DCYA. In November 2012, the referendum on the rights of the child resulted in the addition of Article 42A to the Irish Constitution, placing an emphasis in law on the best interests of the child. The establishment of the new Child and Family Agency in 2014 saw the separation of the business of looking after children from the delivery of health services. There was hope that we were awakening from our historical past of disregard for children, their rights, voice and visibility in society and public policy. There was hope that this would be the foundation for ‘brighter and better futures’ for the children of Ireland.
We need a Minister for Children who will continue the work to ensure that services supporting children and young people’s well-being, welfare and protection are properly resourced.
The DCYA has undertaken so much necessary work since its establishment, work that has positively impacted on children’s lives in this country. There remains so much more to achieve going forward if we are to tackle issues such as child poverty, child and family homelessness, equal access to services, proper health provision, protection and welfare of children, and deliver a fair and equitable Ireland for all our children.
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