‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme needed now

11 February 2021

Ivana Bacik

  • A €100m ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme is needed to make up for lost school days and related activities.
  • There must be an assessment of the damage caused by school closures in 2020 and 2021.
  • Support must be targeted at vulnerable children and young people, those from socioeconomic disadvantage and those with disabilities or other additional needs.

Welcoming the partial re-opening of special schools today, 11th February, Labour Spokesperson for Education Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD and Labour Seanad Group Leader and Spokesperson for Children Senator Ivana Bacik have reiterated their call for a €100m ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme 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.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said,

“Labour welcomes the re-opening, at 50% capacity, of special schools today. This will be a great relief to many parents and children across the country, as will the resumption of special classes in mainstream schools from 22nd February. I want to praise the hard work of trade union representatives, parents’ representatives and partners in education for achieving this re-opening today.

“Although today will mark an important day for some children, other children with additional needs who attend mainstream schools must not be forgotten. The Government’s plan to provide five hours per week of home-based teaching and care support for some children is a positive interim step, but it is not a sustainable long-term solution and will not provide vital supports to all families who are currently struggling.

“It is clear that closure of schools is causing immense damage for all our young people. The Government must have the vision for post-Covid education. In recognition of the fact that they have already missed out, a €100m dedicated fund is needed to help children to make up for lost class time.”

Senator Bacik continued,

“With schools, sports clubs and youth groups entering their twelfth month of limited operations, our young people are already missing key developmental and social activities. There must be practical recognition for the lost hours of education and extra-curricular activities.

“It is well-documented that this pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and social issues that pre-exist the public health crisis. My Labour colleagues and I have been contacted by a large number of concerned parents and teachers who are seeing a severe regressive impact upon the children in their lives as a result of school closures.

“In other jurisdictions we have 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 in Ireland is now. A year is a long time for a child and the Government must be prepared to deal with the fallout of the huge sacrifices our young people have had to make to curb the threat of Covid-19.

“We are calling on the Ministers for Children and Education and Minister of State for Special Education to create a ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme to provide a practical recognition of the damaging impacts upon children caused by prolonged closure of schools and services, and to make up for all the education and related benefits that our children have missed out on in the last year. An analysis must be undertaken to assess the damage caused by the school closures in 2020 and 2021 and supports must be targeted at vulnerable children and young people, those from socioeconomic disadvantage and those with disabilities or other additional needs in particular. Labour estimates that €100m will be required to achieve this.”