News & Media

Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2021 underlines the need for a ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme

23 February 2021

Statement by Senator Ivana Bacik
Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson on Children, Disability, Equality and Integration
  • The Government must undertake an assessment of the impact that reduced timetables and prolonged school closures have had on children in Ireland.
  • Labour is calling for the creation of a dedicated €100m fund to help make up for class-time lost over the last 12 months.
  • Supports must be targeted at vulnerable and marginalised children, such as those with special educational needs, disabilities, in poverty, in homelessness, and in Direct Provision, and Traveller children.

Speaking following the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2021 analysis of the Government’s performance (June-December 2020), Labour Group Leader in the Seanad and Spokesperson for Children, Senator Ivana Bacik has reiterated the Labour Party’s call for a Catch-Up for Children scheme.

Senator Bacik said: 

“I was glad to attend the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance’ Report Card 2021 this afternoon, where we heard feedback on the Government’s performance to-date, from experts and children alike. The independent panel of experts, chaired by Judge Catherine McGuinness, awarded the Government a C-grade for work undertaken from June-December 2020. The grades allocated for different areas of the Programme for Government are a valuable tool for identifying what areas require improvement; unfortunately, there is much to improve upon this year due to the damaging effects of the pandemic.

“I echo the Children’s Rights Alliance’s call for robust data collection on the use of reduced timetables. This call is in line with the Labour Party’s campaign for a ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme, aimed at addressing some of the worst effects of the pandemic on young people. The Government must undertake analysis to assess the extent of damage caused to children by reduced timetables and prolonged school closures. Labour believes that a dedicated €100m dedicated fund is needed to make up for all the education and related benefits that our children and young people have missed out on over the last year, with interventions particularly focussed on vulnerable children.

“According to the Report Card 2021, children with additional educational needs and Traveller children have been hit hardest by the suspension of regular education. There is further evidence that vulnerable and marginalised children are also significantly more likely to be placed on a reduced timetable.

“Without urgent intervention from the Government, there is a strong possibility that the most marginalised children in the State will have to bear long-term effects on their welfare due to the management of this public health crisis. However, this is by no means an inevitability and it is unhelpful to think of it as such. Therefore, I am reiterating the Labour Party’s call for the creation of a €100m ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme to make up for the loss of learning experienced by children over the last 12 months.

“My Labour Party colleagues and I are committed to working constructively with the Government to effect positive change for young people. I note that the Children’s Rights Alliance gave a ‘B-grade’ to the Government for tackling cyberbullying and image-based sexual abuse in Ireland. It was the Labour Party’s Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill, pioneered by my colleague Brendan Howlin TD and campaigner Jackie Fox, whose daughter Nicole ‘Coco’ Fox died tragically due to cyberbullying, that brought about this important change. In December 2020, I secured a commitment from the Minister for Justice to work together on Labour’s Irish Nationality and Citizenship (Naturalisation of Minors Born in Ireland) Bill 2018 – another bill that has the enthusiastic support of the Children’s Rights Alliance. If passed, it will give greater certainty and security for children born in Ireland to parents who are not Irish citizens. I will continue working with the Children’s Rights Alliance and others to make further progress on important causes such as these and to further the strengthening of children’s rights in Ireland.”