Sixty children and youth organisations call on political party leaders to retain the Department of Children

Posted on Tuesday 05 May 2020 in Press Releases

Sixty children and youth organisations have come together to deliver a resounding call for the retention of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in the next Government following unconfirmed reports that the Department may not survive in the new Government configuration.

“We are deeply concerned about reports that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs may be carved up in the next government,” said Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance. “We have been in this position before. We know that when responsibility and accountability are fragmented between departments, so too are the services and supports for children and young people. The Covid19 pandemic will have serious repercussions for our society. Children and young people will have been out of education for six months. We’re facing serious levels of child poverty, school disengagement and drop out and a potential explosion on child protection cases once services operate normally again. Without a Minister for children at the Cabinet table, we’re concerned that the recovery will be too focused on the economy and not on those most vulnerable and most need of support. The needs of children and young people cannot come last.”

The Alliance along with sixty of its member organisations has written to all negotiating parties to call for the retention of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

“During the General Election period, we fought hard with our members to get children and young people on the agenda. Their voice was heard loud and clear when it came to results on the day. They are demanding more, and they deserve more, from the next Government. This starts with keeping their seat at the table. This is a red line issue for us and our members. A policy framework that commits to ‘Supporting Young Ireland’ is worth nothing if we remove the Minister and Department that enables young people to have a voice in political discussions,” continued Tanya Ward.

Speaking on the importance of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Chief Executive of Barnardos, Suzanne Connolly said, “When we advocated for the creation of a Minister and Department for Children, our vision was that children would not just have their voices heard at Cabinet level, but that children’s needs and best interests would shape the policies which affected their lives. To close the Department would send a signal that we do not listen to children, we do not value children and we do not protect children to the same extent we do adults. Systems do not care about children, people do. We must not forget how systems have failed children in Ireland in the past.”

Chief Executive of the ISPCC Childline, John Church, emphasised the need to protect and support the Department of Children and Youth Affairs as we slowly emerge out of the public health crisis we are experiencing, stating “A quarter of Ireland’s population are under the age of 18. They experience challenges unique to their age and developmental stage. In recent weeks, many have told Childline how they are experiencing abuse, mental health difficulties, self-harm, suicide ideation and other issues at this time. They will need dedicated support in the wake of these Adverse Childhood Experiences, as Ireland re-builds. The work of the Department of the Children and Youth Affairs is critical to safeguarding children's futures and ensuring that children's voices are heard, now and at all times. It is imperative that a dedicated Department of Children and Youth Affairs, with a full Ministerial portfolio at cabinet level, is protected and retained in the next government. Anything less would be to significantly fail Irish children, Irish society and Ireland's future."

Teresa Heeney, Chief Executive of Early Childhood Ireland, stated “The Department of Children and Youth Affairs plays a pivotal role in co-ordinating the First 5 strategy, Ireland’s first ever strategy for young children until 2028. It leads its comprehensive, whole-of-government implementation. It is critical that this continues and only a full department will be able to do this effectively. Having taken the important step to bring this national strategy to fruition, its dilution by the next government will set back Ireland’s provision for families with young children by decades.”

“The establishment of the Department for Children and Young Affairs in 2011 and the appointment of the first ever cabinet level Minister, was a significant development. After several damning reports and inquiries which demonstrated that since the foundation of the State that the needs, concerns and voice of children and young people were too often forgotten and ignored in Government, the Department was a demonstration that the State valued children and young people and was at last willing to address their needs and concerns in a coordinated manner across Government. The proposal that the Department now may be dismantled and its functions be cast to the four winds is a betrayal of this generation of children and young people and must be rejected,” concluded Mary Cunningham, CEO of the National Youth Council of Ireland.