€30m project to benefit children in poorer areas
CHILDREN in disadvantaged areas are to benefit from a new €30m scheme aimed at improving their chances in life.
As new research shows a wide social and health gap between young children from different backgrounds, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced a programme to help families in 13 disadvantaged areas.
The Area-Based Childhood (ABC) scheme will use proven intervention methods to improve literacy, numeracy, speech and language, diet and parenting skills by working with organisations on the ground in the selected areas.
This will include initiatives such as parenting courses, and peer-to-peer support where other parents work with families to make helpful suggestions -- such as reading bedtime stories or choosing a healthier diet.
The charity Atlantic Philanthropies is co-funding the scheme, which will be rolled out over the next three years in Bray, Ballyfermot, Clondalkin, Dublin Docklands, Finglas, Grangegorman, Knocknaheeny in Cork, Limerick, Louth and the midlands.
Tallaght, Ballymun and Darndale, which have already run successful ABC programmes, will also take part.
"What the evidence is increasingly telling us is that early intervention makes a difference, and if you are to improve the lot, particularly of children in difficult circumstances, early intervention is the key," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"Some children need more help than others and this programme is ensuring that children right across Ireland who need that help will get it."
The Growing Up in Ireland report, also launched yesterday, highlighted the serious problem with obesity amongst Irish children, Ms Fitzgerald said.
It showed 20pc of Irish five-year-olds are overweight or obese, but those from disadvantaged homes consume 23pc more calories every day and are twice as likely to be obese as better-off kids.
The report also found that children and particularly boys from better-off homes are twice as likely to be involved in sports clubs, although children from poorer backgrounds enjoyed more unstructured play.
And it highlighted how parents struggling to make ends meet were much more likely to have a fractious relationship with their children.
Around 16pc of mothers and fathers experiencing great economic difficulties reported a high level of conflict with their children, compared with 10-11pc of parents with little financial strain.
The naughty step and taking away treats are the most popular form of discipline used by parents, though yelling at children is also common, with smacking less frequent, though around 40pc of parents do smack rarely or occasionally.
The report tracking 11,000 Irish children from birth to five years showed that better-off families are more likely to defer school entry till the children are aged five, particularly for summer babies.