The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in Ireland is committed to the fight against the increasing child poverty rates in the country. The SSVP also seeks to identify the different root causes of poverty, namely lack of food, homelessness and the challenges faced by lone parent families… To that end, we need to raise awareness on these social issues.

 

Family Nutrition

According to recent studies developed by the “Economist Intelligent Unit” in 2017, Ireland is the world’s most “food-secure” nation; however, statistics have shown otherwise. The number of people suffering from hunger has risen from 315,000 in 2009 (7% of the population) to around 537,000 (11.5%) in 2015, including 140,000 children under the age of 18.

In the aftermath of the recent economic crisis, social inequalities have increased; hence, poor families have greater problems when it comes to accessing a healthy and balanced diet. The SSVP has implemented programs such as the “Orchard Community Centre”, which has been operating for around 20 months, to improve the diet of over 90 families, by providing them weekly food hampers consisting of non-perishable foods such as canned goods, tea, coffee, pasta and cereals.

 

Childhood Homelessness

Childhood homelessness is another indicator of children’s well-being in Ireland. Child homelessness has become a very critical issue in recent years.  A report developed by “Focus Ireland” claims that every five hours, one child becomes homeless in Ireland. 865 boys and girls were living in emergency homeless shelters in January 2015, and two years later this number increased to 2,400. There were 3,867 homeless children in Ireland in July 2018.

The impact of living in a hotel room or in B&Bs is detrimental to the children. These children are being deprived of a regular family life with the well established routines of playing, homework, school attendance, and friendship, which are essential for their well-being.

 

Lone Parent Families

According to a new report drawn up by the SSVP Ireland, the poverty rate in working lone parent families in Ireland has doubled in just five years since 2012, with their standard of living being one of the lowest in Europe.

This report, “Working, Parenting and Struggling”, reveals that 1 out of 11 working lone parents lived below the poverty threshold in 2012. By 2017, this figure had increased to 1 out of 5.

Based on this study developed by the Irish Vincentians, the high cost of housing and child care combined with very low incomes are key factors determining the remarkable decrease in the standard of living. Lone parent families are five times more vulnerable to suffer from poverty than other families with children; and 84% of lone parent families mentioned that are unable to handle unexpected expenses.

Given this current situation in Ireland, many initiatives focused on children welfare have been jump-started to eradicate children poverty.  One of these initiatives is “No Child 2020” (https://www.irishtimes.com/nochild2020), an initiative inspired on a pledge adopted one hundred years ago. The pledge boils down to five basic rights that no Irish child should go without. They are as follows:

  1. Health: it shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for children’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
  2. Food: no child should suffer from hunger or lack of nutritious food.
  3. Shelter: no child should be homeless.
  4. Education: every child will have access to proper education as citizens of a free republic.
  5. Children should be regarded as “citizens”: not citizens-to-be, or moulding material or bricks for a country under construction, but just citizens: full members of the Irish society here and now. The underlying promise is that every child shall have the right to be heard and their voices shall be given due weight. Their needs shall be given the same priority as those of other members of society.

Today, this pledge, 100 years later, is still a great commitment and a challenge for the Irish society. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, alongside other organisations, advocates bringing awareness about children welfare so that child development in Ireland is regarded as a priority and an urgent issue for the society as a whole as well as for social policies in a country made for everyone.

 

Share on: