The ISPCC has welcomed measures outlined in Budget 2021 designed to enhance the lives of children and young people in Ireland and has called for funding to be ring-fenced to ensure timely and appropriate support services can be accessed by all who need them.
In welcoming an announced investment of €38m in new measures designed to assist with the implementation of government mental health policy ‘Sharing the Vision’, the charity which delivers the Childline suite of services called for a commitment to boost funding allocations for specific services for children and young people.
The ISPCC also called for a portion of the additional €61m in funding announced for the Child and Family Agency, Tusla to be invested in ensuring all children who need a social worker have access to one, and that additional funding into the international protection system will be put towards the replacement of the current Direct Provision system.
ISPCC Chief Executive John Church said: “Children and young people have borne great upheaval this year, in light of the pandemic. They will continue to face acute challenges over the months and years ahead. They need support and cannot be left to the back of the queue. In this context, we welcome many of the measures announced as part of Budget 2021. It is now imperative that these are implemented efficiently and effectively, with funding ring-fenced for specific supports and services which our children and young people need.
“We welcome government recognition today of the significance of listening services and other supports, particularly for those experiencing domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an issue frequently experienced or witnessed by children and young people who turn to Childline. As soon as schools closed in March, contacts to Childline’s phone, text and online services increased. Children and young people were cut off from school and other supports – and many found themselves at home with their tormentor 24 / 7. At a time when traditional fundraising activities cannot go ahead, it is vital that Childline can continue to be here for every child and young person.
“While the additional funding announced for the mental health and disability sectors is also very welcome, we would urge the government to recognise the need for a specific assessment route for children who need to avail of both mental health and disability services at the same time. Many of the families with whom our Childline Therapeutic Support Services work tell us of their struggles to navigate the current problematic support pathway. These difficulties can be further compounded by long waiting lists to access such supports. The ISPCC calls for funds to be channelled into providing a more succinct pathway for these children.
“It is essential that state agencies with responsibility for keeping children safe are equipped and empowered to provide the highest possible quality service in this regard. All victims of crime, including sexual crime, have the right to information and support in a timely manner. Measures such as education on consent can also play an important role in prevention. To this end, we strongly support an announced ICT investment for An Garda Síochána and would urge that adequate investment is put into systems which detect child sexual abuse material and aid in the identification of victims. The investment allocated to implement the recommendations of the O’Malley Review is also welcome.
“As we look towards brighter futures and Ireland recovering and re-building following Covid-19, it is more important than ever that our children and young people are ready for an increasingly digital world. We welcome the government’s recognition of the need for ‘digital up-skilling’ of young people to support future career paths. Indeed, broad curriculum revisions are needed to realise the full potential of this focus. Online safety education ought to be delivered as a core part of the curriculum, beginning – on age-appropriate basis – at pre-school level. This must include a modernised Relationship and Sexuality Education offering within the school setting, recognising the role of technology and internet. All these measures are imperative to ensure our children are digital ready.
“Children and young people have demonstrated exceptional resilience since Covid-19 restrictions were first introduced. Cut off from many of the trusted adults in their lives who support them, many have encountered Adverse Childhood Experiences. It is imperative that all children and young people, regardless of their circumstances, can access adequate, appropriate and timely supports and interventions which meet their needs and help empower and enable them to enjoy the best quality of life possible. We welcome measures announced today to support this objective and look forward to their implementation.”