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Social Democrats TD for Wicklow, Jennifer Whitmore, has said that Budget 2021 has overlooked the children and stretched families who have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson for Children, said:

“A total of €17.75 billion allocated in this budget will be the largest ever in a budget, yet key sectors have been largely overlooked by this record spend which will make it harder for children, young people and families to navigate the current pandemic.

“The Department of Children saw only a 6% increase in its budget compared to 2020 figures. No extra funding was given to address chronic underinvestment in the sector, meaning issues of quality of childcare and the crisis of low pay in the sector will remain.

“It beggars belief that the Government should chose to turn a blind eye to this incredibly important sector. Childcare provision during Covid-19 was the cornerstone of the economy as it enabled parents to return to work.

“An increase would have also helped turn around Ireland’s record at the bottom of the class in terms of investment, which currently stands at 0.1pc of GDP, the lowest of any developed country.

“It is also a missed opportunity to move towards a new model of childcare which is responsive to the needs of families, workers and children.

“The additional funding of €110m for the Department is welcome, however, and I am happy to see funding facilitating the work of Tusla as well as supporting those in direct provision. I also welcome the additional €5m for youth services.

“However, much more will be needed to help young people navigate the current crisis and address the effects it has had on this cohort. It has not been given the attention it deserves to date which I will work for on the Oireachtas Committee for Children.

“Some anti-poverty initiatives will also get additional funding, including an increase in the school meals programme which I called for in my recent Dáil motion on Child Poverty. This expansion will reach an additional 35,000 school children.

“Fuel poverty is also a focus in the budget, with the Fuel Allowance increasing by €3.50. However, I am concerned that this increase will be absorbed by any increases in the cost of living over time.

“Budget 2021 was also an opportunity to support parents as they cope with the Covid-19 crisis and to address the early years of a child’s life. I had called for an extension to Parents’ Leave in our Social Democrats Budget proposal and I am happy to see that paid leave has been increased by three weeks.

“However, the child poverty measures announced today do not go far enough, particularly the €2 increase for under 12 years.”

October 13, 2020

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