‘Catch-Up for Children’ Scheme Proposed
Labour Seanad Group Leader and Party Spokesperson for Children, Disability, Equality and Integration, Senator Ivana Bacik has called on the Government to introduce a catch-up scheme, as in other jurisdictions, for children in Ireland.
This scheme would provide funding to address the severe impacts upon children due to losing significant time at school and engagement in sports and other important extra-curricular activities during the pandemic.
Senator Bacik said:
“The need for a coherent plan for the re-opening of schools has dominated headlines for the last number of weeks, and rightly so. Preserving public health while getting pupils back into educational settings is vitally important. While it is very welcome that special schools will be re-opening this week and that special classes are due to re-open on 22nd February, we still have no clarity on the dates for re-opening of schools more generally. The uncertainty around re-opening dates is causing immense stress and distress to children and parents alike.
“However, even after schools do re-open for all children, measures must be put in place to provide practical recognition for the fact that children have already missed out on so much education and extra-curricular activities.
“Now that schools, sports clubs and youth groups have been limited in their operations for almost a year, many young people are missing key developmental and social activities. Those with additional needs, vulnerable children and children in special schools have been affected the most. I have been contacted by parents and teachers of children with additional needs who are seeing severe regressive impact upon their children as a result of school closures. Along with re-opening of special schools, the Government’s plan to provide five hours per week of home-based teaching and care support for some children is welcome, but it is not a sustainable long-term resolution and does not address many of the real needs of such children.
“Other children who are vulnerable or have a difficult homelife are struggling to maintain a connection with a trusted adult who may be able to help them. This is one of the many very important roles played by community youth groups across the State.
“The pandemic has shone a light on and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities in Irish society. It is clear that, while all young people have suffered through this public health crisis, it is children who are already otherwise marginalised who have had to persevere through the most adversity. The Children’s Ombudsman and organisations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland, SpunOut and the Children’s Rights Alliance have been to the fore in highlighting these issues and more.
“Unfortunately, this important conversation has become largely absent from our national dialogue in recent times. In contrast, in other jurisdictions we have already seen significant funding committed to the development of ‘catch-up schemes’ for children and young people to take account of the immense deprivation they have suffered as a result of the pandemic.
“The time to develop post-Covid supports is now. Nearly one year into the pandemic, many of us adults are reflecting on what we have missed in the last twelve months. However, in terms of development, a year is a very long time for a young person. Early intervention will be key to limit the detrimental effects of this traumatic year.
“There must be a practical recognition of the damaging impacts upon children caused by prolonged closure of schools and services. I call on the Minister for Children and Ministers of State for Disability and Special Education to ensure the introduction of a well-resourced ‘catch-up for children’ scheme to make up for all the education and related benefits that our children have missed out on in the last year.”