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Snippet Contents:

The UNICEF report to which I referred showed that children bore the brunt of the recession and identified what measures the Government should have taken to tackle the problem. It should have invested in family support services, which have been decimated in recent years, and properly funded preschool services. The provision of a year of free preschool education is all very well but it is seriously under-resourced, especially in the poorest areas. The report states the Government should also have invested in education. Rather than improving education services, however, it chose to implement more cuts. It failed to take the opportunity to reverse the forthcoming 1% cut to the capitation payment. Despite hitting the poorest and most vulnerable children in society, the Government believes it is all right to allow it to proceed.
The Government should also improve health services for children. At community level, primary health care services have been slashed and long waiting lists have developed for speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. Some 9,000 cases involving child welfare and protection have not been allocated a social worker. Moreover, 400,000 people are on waiting lists for hospital services and 60,000 are on waiting lists for primary care services, which are very important for children.
This legislation is a missed opportunity. The Government had a chance to show we live in a caring and decent society and have set the right priorities. It declined to take it, however, choosing instead to introduce a regressive budget and this regressive legislation which have widened the gap between rich and poor, further alienated many sections of society and increased cynicism about politics. It was for these reasons that 150,000 people took to the streets last week.