President of Ireland Addresses Barnardos’ Tomorrow’s Child Conference

04 Nov 2008

Press Release 

President of Ireland Addresses Barnardos’ Tomorrow’s Child Conference

Dublin, 6 November 2008 - Barnardos, Ireland’s leading children’s charity, hosted President of Ireland Mary McAleese at the second day of their major Tomorrow’s Child conference today. The Tomorrow’s Child conference brings together policy and service professionals, both national and international, working on issues affecting children and young people.

Highlighting the importance of evidence-based research and cost benefit analysis in the provision of effective intervention and prevention services for children and young people, Barnardos’ Tomorrow’s Child conference opened with a presentation by Steve Aos, Assistant Director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Speaking at the Tomorrow’s Child conference Mr. Aos said: “Our work is concerned with weighing up the long-term cost benefits of intervention programmes in areas such as education, crime and mental health. It is really about looking at whether the costs of intervention provide long-term economic savings. In most cases, there are significant benefits to early intervention programmes that work both for the individuals concerned and for the taxpayer and which most definitely result in financial savings for the State.”

One example of the effectiveness of early intervention is outlined by Mr. Aos in his   review of early childhood education programmes for low income 3 & 4 year olds showing that such programmes had a long-term benefit for the children involved with increases in on-time graduation from high school, drops in the number of students accessing special needs services and drops in adulthood conviction rates.

Mr. Fergus Finlay, CEO Barnardos said: “Early intervention and prevention is key to the way we work in Barnardos. We have constantly reiterated the value in providing quality early childhood education and care services for children and families. This is particularly important for children living in disadvantaged communities. Having access to quality education services at an early age can offset many difficulties before they really take hold. Children in disadvantaged communities experience numerous hardships that have a lasting affect on their lives. 1 in 3 leaves school without being able to read or write properly.”

“If education is a proven route out of poverty, it makes sense that investing in all children’s early education and care has positive outcomes for both individual children and society as a whole.”

The Tomorrow’s Child report commissioned by Barnardos and compiled by Brian Harvey, Independent Research Consultant highlights that Ireland has followed other European countries in the trend toward early childhood education and care services but is far behind some States with services remaining under-developed, under-funded, expensive and largely private. The report also notes that availability is a problem with 20% of working Irish women dropping out of the labour market because of childcare commitments compared with 8% in the EU as a whole.

Barnardos Children’s Budget 2009 highlighted the fact that the Early Childcare Supplement was costing the State the exchequer €350m per annum (a figure which will be reduced as a result of upcoming changes to the payment). However, the National Economic and Social Forum’s (NESF) estimated that providing a universal free quality half-day pre-school place to all children the year prior to joining primary school would cost €145m.

Fergus Finlay said: “It is not simply about cutting budgets but about looking at the most effective use of taxpayer money to provide the best services possible within the financial capacity of the State. While recognising the very serious economic situation we are in, we are concerned that cutbacks in education now will have a long-term impact on some of Ireland’s most vulnerable children.”


Note to Editors

Barnardos supports children whose well-being is under threat, by working with them, their families and communities and by campaigning for the rights of children. Barnardos was established in Ireland in 1962 and is Ireland's leading independent children's charity.

Figures on early childhood education and care in Brian Harvey’s report are taken from the National Economic & Social Forum: Early Childhood Care and Education. Report #31. Dublin, 2005 and Hughes, Ian; Clancy, Paula; Harris, Clodagh; & Beetham, David: Power to the People? Assessing Democracy in Ireland. Dublin, TASC & New Ireland, 2006.

For more information please contact:

Yolanda Kennedy 01/7080443 or 086 3860638
Irene Lawlor 01/7080423 or 086 3980441