Does every child matter?
Every child matters. So says the slogan anyway. One might have thought that the Children’s rights referendum would bring this whole area into focus, but it hasn’t really achieved that. I suspect the referendum itself should pass easily enough but that is not the focus of this article.
What I want to know is what happens after this referendum, where do we go? Does every child really matter? What about the hundreds of children in state care that are unaccounted for? Every year they just disappear. This isn’t a scandal however, they are mostly immigrant children, it can be passed off easily enough; they went home, they went to live with someone else, they went to another country. No need to worry ourselves too much. But what if these were our children? Would we accept a ‘probable’ answer? Does every child matter?
Look around our streets. Children are there too. Some begging, some held in their parents arms while they are begging. Now of course its also very easy to turn a blind eye here. Blame the parents, blame criminality, blame whatever excuse you like. A child is still on a street, does this child matter? If so what are we going to do about it?
Those cases might be seen as the extreme but we must ask the same questions at every level of our society. What about children that are disabled or rely on help at home? Do they matter? If so, then surely we are still a long way off being able to offer them equal opportunities. Do we have a plan for this? If so, it’s not going to be helped by looking at cutting services to them to start with. Can we say all our children are equal even in our education system? How many students who make the top courses in college attend grinds or specific classes to enable them to do so? Is this equal opportunity? These days if you are in an area that can receive the right type of broadband you can get free study classes, if not, then tough.
Ok, so some will say that it will never be perfect, and of course they are right. The question is: are we making an effort to move in that direction? When the Children’s rights referendum is finished with, we will all return to the normal state of affairs and nothing will change. There is a lack of political courage to say that children should be protected from the worst of the cuts that will come in the economy. All children will be judged by the view held of their parents. Every child matters, but only to the degree that we can judge their parents. If we can say they should do more or suggest it’s their fault then we can wash our hands of responsibility to that child. Sadly society will continue to pigeon hole and label a person and their children will just have to accept that labelling.
If the education budget must be cut, then we can expect class sizes to increase, or a reduction in services to students. It is highly unlikely that any alternative will be discussed and while there are many teachers willing to consider options to prevent this, there seems a reluctance at the top to giving it any hearing. Perhaps there are good reasons for this too. Debt deals and write-downs are discussed at length, eventually the maths will dictate that a deal has to happen or Ireland will simply fail. Yet we must wait. We must wait to se how the world economy does, we must wait to see what happens in Spain, we must wait until a German election, we must wait until the EU is finally of the view that it has used up all its options then it will do what it knows it has to. However it will have played it as safe as it can and avoided it for as long as possible. How equal are children is such a scenario? Everyday it costs us more money, some of that money will be cut from funds and services for children that need it. While the troika may shrug and talk of the long term, its time that they were faced with some redline issues too. Nothing will accelerate the inevitable deal on debt as that will. The problem is that the government still think the debt deal will win them kudos (it might), but that deal will happen no matter how badly the government do. What is in question is when. It is needed now.
We will continue with platitudes to children. We will all agree that they are the most important thing. We will not pay more tax to support that view though, no, we will focus on their parents to deflect from that. We will not protect them from cuts because if that happens whatever area I’m in as an adult may be cut more to make up and after all if I face any cut to my income then it has a knock on effect on my children and lets face it, my children matter more. Our society does not have a universal value on children. Every child matters…..to someone. However, everyone does not care about every child.
Now that the referendum was passed, we’re about to see in the budget what, if anything, that means in the immediate term. Perhaps such referenda should be banned, rather than let a government claim “majority” support when, in truth, an overwhelming majority has not voted in favour of the proposal.