Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 17 November, 2004
Written Answers. - Family Support Services.
Mr. Stanton Mr. Stanton
312. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the findings of a recent study commissioned under his Department’s families research programme (details supplied) which says it may be opportune to re-focus on the role of economic disadvantage in the development and prolongation of behaviour difficulties in the child; the action that he intends to take as a result of this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29162/04]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: The study to which the Deputy refers, From Child to Adult, is a longitudinal study of Irish children and their families. The study was co-funded by the Family Support Agency and the Department of Social and Family Affairs under the families research programme.
One of the main objectives of Government policy is to reduce and eliminate child poverty. The strategies to meet this objective are set out in the revised national anti-poverty strategy, NAPS, and, more recently, in the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion. The main outcome aimed for is a situation of greater equality for all children in terms of access to appropriate education, health and housing, thereby seeking to break the cycle of disadvantage and exclusion experienced by certain children in society.
A specific target in the NAPS is to reduce the number of children who are consistently poor to below 2% by 2007 and, if possible, to eliminate consistent poverty among children by then. Significant progress has already been made towards achieving this target. For instance, the number of children who are consistently poor has more than halved in the four year period 1997 to 2001, falling from 15.3% in 1997 to 6.5% in 2001.
The most significant child poverty related measure in my Department has been the increase in child benefit, from which all families have gained, but particularly those on low incomes. The rate of child benefit has risen from €38.09 for the first two children and €49.52 for each child thereafter in 1997 to €131.60 per month for each of the first two children and to €165.30 per month for the third and each subsequent child.
Another income support for low income families is the family income supplement. The aim of this scheme is to provide a weekly cash support for employees on low earnings with families, thereby preserving the incentive to  remain in employment. Family income supplement payment rates have increased annually in line with unemployment payments, maintaining the incentive for people to avail of suitable employment opportunities. In the 2004 Estimates, €56 million has been allocated for this scheme. My Department also provides the one parent family payment which is a payment for both men and women who, for a variety of reasons, are bringing up a child(ren) without the support of a partner. A total of €707.8 million is provided in the 2004 Estimates for this scheme.
An evaluation of the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion will commence early next year with a view to a report on the evaluation being submitted to the European Union by June. The effectiveness of the measures to combat poverty among children will be evaluated in that context and full account will be taken of the findings of the study referred to by the Deputy.
Dáil Éireann 592 Written Answers. Family Support Services.