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Doherty proposes free school meals and books to help alleviate child poverty

26 August, 2008 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty, responding to news that plans to eradicate child poverty have stalled due to problems in identifying those most in need, has called for the introduction of free meals and books in schools as an intermediary measure. Senator Doherty said this would take pressure off parents who are struggling to meet the costs of educating their children.

Speaking today he said, "Tackling child poverty must be a top priority for the Government and while I recognise the difficulties in targeting those most in need this does not mean that everything must come to a standstill. There are measures that can be taken while a strategy to target those children most at risk is devised.

"As an intermediary measure I would suggest that the Government introduce a school meals programme and a system to deliver free school books to all children. This would help to alleviate the pressures faced by many parents who are struggling to meet the rising costs of educating their children.

"If the Government is genuinely serious about tackling child poverty then it must re-look at its current childcare policy with a view to reversing the current trend which has seen many community based childcare providers close down.

"The new Government policy has led to a situation where those on low and middle incomes are pulling their children out of childcare facilities as they cannot afford the payments without Government assistance. This has had a knock on affect on the provider as they are provided with a staffing grant linked to the numbers of children in the crèche. As the number of children in the crèche falls the provider loses more funding and many are having to close down altogether.

"The Government must re-look at this policy while taking on board the concerns of those working in childcare delivery." ENDS

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