Government failed to protect Ireland's children from poverty - Children's Rights Alliance
The coalition Government has failed to protect Ireland's children from poverty, campaigners say.
In its annual report card, the Children's Rights Alliance graded the Fine Gael/Labour administration with an "F" when it comes to helping the country's poorest.
It is the lowest grade in their rankings - which measure the Government's performance against its promises - and is defined as taking steps that undermine children's well-being.
Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, said the fail grade follows last year's Unicef report which found Ireland ranked 37 out of 41 in a league table of child poverty in Western countries.
"The number of children experiencing consistent poverty has doubled since the beginning of the downturn in 2008," she said.
"We can only conclude that children were, and continue to be, the real victims of the recession.
"Last year saw families continue to struggle with rising rent prices, utility bills, personal debt, homelessness and food poverty.
"Although the Government introduced a small monthly increase in the child benefit payment for the first time in seven years, this was not enough."
John-Mark McCafferty, of poverty campaigners St Vincent de Paul (SVP), said the Government's lack of progress in battling child poverty is a serious concern.
"While there may have been progress in improving the financial and economic well-being within some sectors in the country, it has been at the expense of people on low incomes or dependent on state payments and the huge reduction in community supports," he said.
"At the end of last year there were 880 children homeless in Ireland, with over one third of homeless outside Dublin."
The Children's Rights Alliance gave the coalition an overall "C" grade for meeting its commitments to children in its programme for government.
It was poorly graded with an "E" for mental health care, primarily for the admission of children into adult facilities, but got two "A" grades in education for boosting literacy and constructing new school buildings.