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Rights of the Child

20 November 2007

Senator Ivana Bacik: On this auspicious day for children's rights Senator Fitzgerald referred to the issue. On a related matter I ask that the Minister for Health and Children attend the House for a debate on the fact that the Government does not have child benefit as a universal benefit. The habitual residence condition deprives up to 3,000 of the most disadvantaged children in the State, and these are largely the children of asylum seekers or persons to whom leave to remain in the State has been refused. This has a detrimental effect on their schooling, nutrition and general upbringing.

While the numbers are small, a campaign has been in place for the past year, which I had the honour of launching, run by the Free Legal Advice Centres and supported by the Children's Rights Alliance, Barnardos, the Vincentian Refugee Centre and others. All argue the Government should restore child benefit as a universal benefit, given that Ireland has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have an obligation to ensure social welfare policies are applied in the best interests of the child and without regard to the status of the parents. This is a small matter but has a big impact on a relatively small number of children to whom we are clearly neglecting in our duties.