The need for additional interventions and supports for children who have been disproportionately disadvantaged because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been highlighted in new report on child poverty in Tallaght launched recently. The report Over the Fence: Perspectives on and experiences of child poverty in Tallaght was written by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) and launched by the Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien TD. The report identifies the challenges faced in the community and called for additional recovery resources for children disproportionately affected in relation to formal and non-formal education, social and therapeutic services.
CDI CEO Marian Quinn said that a COVID-19 Recovery Plan is required for affected children, together with further actions as set out in the report. “Priorities to address child poverty gathered in this study are tackling homelessness, and creating community platforms that foster child interactions and socio-emotional wellbeing, to improve community safety and to focus additional targeted interventions at children with specific needs. “While early intervention should be implemented on a universal basis, services must be delivered and resourced to respond to children and families at risk and who require more intensive interventions. These are particularly needed at this time for some families following the impact of the pandemic.”
The report was compiled during 2020 working with a comprehensive range of focus groups including children, parents and service providers living and working in Tallaght. Launching the report the Minister of State Joe O’Brien, with responsibility for Community Development and Charities at the Department of Rural and Community Development, commended the report’s examination of the interconnected nature of the many issues underpinning child poverty. “It is interconnectedness that makes grassroots community development approaches so crucial to tackling issues of social exclusion. The Social inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), which I oversee, is a vital resource in many locally communities nationally – providing on the ground community development workers to support families and individuals whilst also connecting all the relevant services both locally and nationally to help address the myriad of issues underpinning child poverty.
“Child poverty should not be something we ever accept and the programmes under my own remit and indeed across government strive to identify and, most importantly, address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion.”
CDI Data Specialist and main report author Jefrey Shumba said that children should be engaged with as part of the process of developing solutions that will be most effective. “Consultations should be conducted with children on designing, developing and implementing solutions to child poverty in Tallaght. This will strengthen the chances of addressing the felt needs of children, develop children’s capacity to lead and own interventions seeking to address child poverty, maximise the sustainability of interventions and embed ownership within the community.”
Findings in the report include:
- Income is a key driver of household poverty and is associated with deprivation in food poverty, housing, access to health services and education.
- Participants described the housing crisis in Tallaght as deepening and having far reaching consequences. Parents experiencing housing challenges also referenced mental health challenges which affected the parent-child relationship. Children who experienced homelessness and housing challenges experienced negative socio-emotional outcomes and mental health challenges, which have long-term consequences.
- Mental health difficulties were a big challenge for both children and parents and these included depression, anxiety, isolation, general stress, and suicidal ideation.
- Neighbourhood safety was a major concern for families and children in Tallaght with cases of robberies, break-ins and stealing perceived to be on the rise.
Ms Quinn added that a system is needed to ensure that all children have a nutritious meal every day irrespective of whether they are in school or not, and also a greater awareness of existing services. “Greater awareness of how to access existing services is needed, to ensure children and families engage with comprehensive services. Furthermore, enhancing interagency collaboration and referral systems is critical in addressing multidimensional child poverty,” she said.