Extern has called on the government to ‘close the gap’ in funding for services for the most vulnerable families who need support to reduce adversity, challenges and to stay together, and potentially save the State millions in costs on residential care.

Extern supports young people and families in 22 counties across the country, is also urging the government to allocate more resources towards tackling problem gambling, particularly among young men.

These are among the key asks in Extern’s pre-Budget submission – entitled ‘Close the Gap’ – which is published today. The paper reflects the charity’s very real concerns about the impact of the impending cost of living crisis on the already vulnerable whose circumstances will worsen.

Following over a decade of standstill funding to the Community and Voluntary sectors, of which Extern is one organisation, Government is being urged to restore pay and reverse cuts incurred since 2009 to enable services to reach and support the thousands of families already in crisis and waiting for supports.

Currently, 70% of the families that Extern supports in partnership with state agencies are already living in consistent poverty. It is feared that rising food and energy costs could push many into further hardship and others could find themselves facing family breakup due to being unable to look after their dependents.

Meanwhile, a recent European School Survey revealed that Irish males aged 15-16 have a problem gambling prevalence rate that is more than five times that of the general population. Funding for Extern’s Problem Gambling project is set to run out in 2023, despite demand for the free counselling service and school talks it delivers far outstripping capacity.

Among the key recommendations being put forward by Extern are:

  • Reinstating funding levels to the Community and Voluntary sector similar to levels which the public sector has been afforded since 2009
  • The need for an immediate respite centre and service on the East Coast for families and children in crisis in Greater Dublin
  • Expansion of Extern’s Intensive Home Support Service (IHSS), which supports family unity and keeps children out of State residential care. Currently this service costs €256 versus €6,000 per week for a child in residential care.   
  • A total of €750,000 annually towards the funding of a specialist gambling addiction treatment and prevention service, including dedicated counsellors, in each of the nine HSE Community Healthcare Organisation regions. 

Leslieann Scott, Extern’s Director of Services in the Republic of Ireland, said: “In a well-developed and wealthy nation like ours, the fact that 8% of children are consistently living in poverty with no hope of a bright future is a shocking reality. For those children experiencing family breakdown, the impact of poverty is further magnified.

“The Government has the power to provide the funds to alleviate the crisis of families already in consistent poverty and mitigate higher rates of children being placed into the residential care system which will only cost the State more in the longer term and deeply disadvantage children further.

“We are asking the government to not only concentrate on improving the economic reality for these families but also on their access to critical support services.”

Extern will be lobbying Ministers and other elected representatives in the coming weeks close the gap in funding and put children and families already in crisis at the top of the budget agenda.

To download Extern's Pre-Budget Submission, visit Extern Ireland Pre-Budget Submission 2023