Poverty:

The Irish Times - - Front Page - KITTY HOL­LAND So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent

Child poverty is the ‘cri­sis of our times’ the Taoiseach should end, a con­fer­ence heard yes­ter­day:

Child poverty was the “cri­sis of our times” and the Taoiseach should lead a drive to end it, a high-level con­fer­ence on the is­sue heard yes­ter­day.

It heard key steps would in­clude con­vinc­ing the mid­dle classes that child poverty ex­isted and then that th­ese chil­dren were worth in­vest­ing in, even if they were in marginalised and of­ten-stig­ma­tised fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing those headed by lone par­ents, Trav­ellers, Roma or those with men­tal health or ad­dic­tion is­sues.

The work­shop was con­vened by Min­is­ter for Chil­dren Kather­ine Zap­pone, and looked at UN sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals (SDGs) as they re­late to chil­dren. It was at­tended by se­nior of­fi­cials from the De­part­ment of the Taoiseach, the Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search In­sti­tute, civil so­ci­ety and academia.

Key­note speaker, Prof Jef­frey Sachs, spe­cial ad­viser to the UN sec­re­tary gen­eral on SDGs, said fail­ure to in­vest in chil­dren “dooms them for life”. Choices had to be made about re­sourc­ing in­vest­ment. The sci­ence on the im­pact of poverty on chil­dren was “ab­so­lutely clear”, said Prof Sachs.

‘Doomed for life’

“If you don’t in­vest in the chil­dren you doom them for life. Brains are re­ally frag­ile in­stru­ments. They are not ro­bust. When the child grows up in an en­vi­ron­ment of stress and their cor­ti­zol sys­tem is trig­ger­ing all the time – that rewires the brain.

“We know the con­se­quences of that are dev­as­tat­ing, for phys­i­cal health and cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment, for a life­time . . . Chil­dren are frag­ile. Let their brains de­velop . . . Don’t over­whelm th­ese lit­tle things in their first years and then ex­pect them to per­form as good cit­i­zens for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s a choice,” he said, as to how re­sources were dis­trib­uted in a mar­ket econ­omy .

“A mar­ket sys­tem pro­duces wealth but it does not pro­duce so­cial jus­tice . . . The ba­sic prob­lem of the mar­ket econ­omy is that it is based on un­leash­ing greed and the de­sire for wealth. It has to be tem­pered by the de­mands of moral­ity, ethics.”

Tanya Ward, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Chil­dren’s Rights Al­liance, de­scribed child poverty as “the cri­sis of our times” while Prof Sachs, de­scrib­ing it as “mul­ti­ple crises”.

Ms Zap­pone said the statis­tics on child poverty were “stark”.

“Al­most one in ev­ery five chil­dren in Ire­land lives be­low the poverty line and chil­dren carry a higher risk of poverty than any other age group. One in four chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ences en­forced de­pri­va­tion, and chil­dren carry a higher risk of de­pri­va­tion than any other age group.

“One in ev­ery 10 chil­dren lives in con­sis­tent poverty – ex­pe­ri­enc­ing both in­come poverty and de­pri­va­tion – and again the risk of con­sis­tent poverty is higher for chil­dren than any other age group. Th­ese fig­ures are hard to ig­nore. In­deed to do so is to fail in our mo­ral and eth­i­cal du­ties to th­ese chil­dren and their fu­tures,” she said.

Sachs wants €13bn of dis­puted Ap­ple taxes to be spent on poor: Busi­ness

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