Local representative Seamus Rodgers is backing the call from the Labour Party for the Government to introduce a €100m ‘Catch-Up for Children’ scheme, as is in place in other countries, 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.
“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," said Mr Rodgers.
“The need for a coherent plan for the re-opening of schools has dominated headlines for the last number of weeks, and rightly so.
"However, even after schools do re-open for all children, measures must be put in place to provide practical support for children have already missed out on so much education and extra-curricular activities."
The Annagry man added that is well-documented that this pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and social issues that were there before the pandemic.
"My Labour colleagues and I have been contacted by many concerned parents and teachers who are seeing a severe impact upon the children in their lives as a result of school closures.
“In other countries 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."
He pointed out that 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. This could take the form of extra tuition, supports or special projects in schools or local clubs.
“Other children who are vulnerable or have a difficult home life are struggling to maintain a connection with a trusted adult who may be able to help them. This is one of the many very important roles played by community youth groups across the State.
"The Children’s Ombudsman and organisations such as the National Youth Council of Ireland, Spun Out and the Children’s Rights Alliance have been to the fore in highlighting these issues and more," he said.
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