'Long way to go' to end child poverty
The leader of an EU initiative targeting social issues has said Ireland "has a long way to go" in helping poverty-stricken children.
Prof Hugh Frazer said there needed to be a focus on improving public services, as more than a third of Irish children were in poverty or threatened by it.
The professor is the Coordinator of the EU Network of Experts on Social Inclusion. The aim of the group is to highlight poverty and social exclusion in more than 30 countries in Europe.
He has long been involved in social affairs, and was formerly part of the Government-run Combat Poverty Agency, which became the Social Inclusion Division in July 2009. He specialises in issues relating to child poverty.
"Historically, Ireland has always had a high level of child poverty and social exclusion, and for a developed European country, we still have high figures," Prof Frazer told the Irish Independent.
"It's about one in three children who is at risk of poverty," he said. "So that means children are living with families with low incomes or experiencing a lot of material deprivation, or lack basic necessities."
Recently, figures were released that showed 2,505 children were homeless last Christmas in Ireland, which Prof Frazer said was "one of the most worrying parts of the homelessness crisis".
"It's how it has expanded from the more traditional group of people to a large number of families, and there undoubtedly has been an increase in the number of families of children affected by homelessness."
However, Prof Frazer praised Children's Minister Katherine Zappone on her Affordable Childcare Bill, which allows parents with lower incomes to avail of subsidised childcare.
"She's absolutely right to be addressing these issues. The cost of the economic crisis in Europe generally, but also in Ireland, was borne unduly by children. Any effort to address that balance is absolutely welcome," he said.
The EU Network of Experts on Social Inclusion will be conducting a report later this year which will monitor what has been done to implement its recommendation on investing in children, which all the EU member states accepted in 2013.
Yesterday, a small group of people, including the professor, braved the biting cold and rain to attend the annual launch of the Stop Poverty Call to Action in Dublin.
The aim of the initiative is to draw awareness to poverty internationally.