Do we really care for children?

As we digest the outcome of the Independent Child Death Review Group’s report into the death of children in care or known to the Health Service Executive, published yesterday by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald, we hear calls increased investment to put in place the safeguards that are required to ensure that this never happens again.

Surely if we really hold children in the high regard we claim to, we should seek to ensure that society treats all children equally from birth. However what we need to realise is that the investment called for will only alleviate the pain and suffering that children experience after they come into contact with child protection services.

What it will not do is stop the pain and hurt experienced prior to this. Nor will it do anything that will allow children to be treated equally in relation to health, education, housing, adequate income and reasonable social services.

Any real change in the life of these children will only be possible when we realise the need to change the type of society and welfare state in which we live.

Since the foundation of this state 90 years ago we have had a steady stream of conservative politicians implementing a liberal welfare state dominated by subsidiarity, means tested assistance, poor universal transfers and restricted social insurances.

History tells us that whatever party is in power and whatever the financial state of the country, we have never sought to build an equitable society where children can truly be treated equally. If we are ever to achieve such an equitable society we need to realise that there is a direct connection between the ideologies of the politicians we elect and the society we live in.

There is a further direct connection between the type of society we live in and the advantages or disadvantages that the children it produces experience. If we truly wish to cherish our children, the type of society we need to do this is one based on equality and fairness; a society that prioritises people over the market.

This will not happen under our current conservative government – one made up of a neoliberal Fine Gael and a Labour Party that has lost all resemblance to a party based on equality and fairness.

What we need to realise is that fairness and equality are not traits associated with conservative politics.

We should also be aware that it is highly unlikely that the investment necessary to make the changes as suggested in the report will ever materialise. In an interview with RTÉ radio Minister for Justice Alan Shatter avoided giving a direct answer when asked if the money would be made available to implement the required changes in order to secure the welfare of children in care or known to child protection services.

While we continue to elect conservative politicians not alone are we unlikely to ever see an equitable society that will treat all children equally – we’re also unlikely to see the finances required to help these children when society and the state fails them. {jathumbnailoff}