Case for a ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme made by legal experts

19 February 2021

Ivana Bacik

Following the launch of the #ChildrensFutures campaign, organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance, Barnardos, Inclusion Ireland, the National Parents Council and As I Am, Labour Spokesperson for Children, Senator Ivana Bacik has reiterated her call on the Government to introduce a ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme to address the severe impacts upon children of lost class-time and engagement in sports and other important extra-curricular activities during the pandemic.

Senator Bacik said,

“I was glad to attend a webinar organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance today, where Alan D.P Brady BL and James Rooney BL outlined the human rights and constitutional underpinnings of the State’s obligation to provide children with an education. They were clear in their view that it is not sufficient for the Government to simply close schools, citing the pandemic, with no plan in place for how this loss of class-time will be made up to children.

“Prolonged school closures have had a profound effect upon children across the State. However, the negative impacts have been greatest upon children with disabilities, children with special educational needs, children in poverty and homelessness and other vulnerable children. The long-term effects of this troubling situation will worsen, the longer it is left unaddressed. We have already heard from many parents and teachers who have observed severe regression in their children. Labour supported the decisions on school closures earlier this year in line with public health advice. We believe that decisions to return to school must be taken in the context of an overall safety assessment, accompanied by strong policies around hygiene, PPE and ventilation. And we have emphasised the need to ensure that schools can remain open, and that we do not see a series of further lockdowns over coming months. We have called for the adoption by government of a clear strategy on Covid-19; a National Aggressive Suppression Strategy which would enable us to get Covid-19 numbers down to a low level, in order to significantly reduce the risk of transmission in schools, and across the community.

“The pandemic is, by nature, changeable and unpredictable. Far from being an excuse not to have a plan, this reality shows just how important it is to develop a mechanism to make up for the loss of learning experienced by children over the last 12 months. I am glad to see the Children’s Futures campaign make this important point, in line with Labour’s call on the Government to create a €100m ‘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, with interventions particularly focussed on vulnerable children.

“Rights are not suspended in a public health crisis. In fact, during times of crisis, human rights are needed most. Children in Ireland have a right to receive education, a right which is enshrined in the Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government must develop and communicate a plan for how it plans to vindicate that right in this challenging year.”