2.7 Children and young people
The child population of Limerick City and County (persons aged 0-17 years) is just under one-quarter of the total population, with a higher percentage aged under 18 years in the county compared with the city. The population under 25 years is approximately one-third of the total population of the city and county (2016).
Children & Social Disadvantage
Focusing on characteristics of the child population that impact on well-being, 8,187 children live in one-parent households, 17.4% of all children, slightly higher than the state average (16.5%) (2016). The average rates of lone parent households with any children under 15 years is 35.5% for Limerick City and significantly lower for the County (15.2%) compared with a national average of 19.9%. In the most disadvantaged communities in the city, the percentage of lone parent households with any children under 15 years is in excess of 50%, highest in St. Mary’s Park at 74% and 68% in O’Malley Park, Southill. Parts of the city centre, where lone parent families occupy rented housing (e.g., under the Housing Assistance Payment), also have high rates of lone parent households with children.
Parts of the County where the percentage of lone parent households is relatively high are Rathkeale Urban (33%), Mountcollins (29%), Patrickswell (27%), Askeaton West (26%), Kilmeedy (25%), Newcastle West Urban (24%) and Croom (22%). Children living in disadvantaged areas in lone parent families are at higher risk of poverty.
In 2020, 840 children in Limerick City and County were in households identified in need of social housing. Of these, 596 were living in lone parent households and 240 in households comprising a couple with a child / children.
Travellers are amongst the most disadvantaged social groups and in the child population are at highest risk of poor educational outcomes especially early school leaving. In 2016, there were 686 Traveller children living in Limerick City and County, giving a rate of 14.6 per 1,000 children. This is above the state average of 11.9 Traveller children per 1,000 children but well below the local authority area, Galway City, with the highest rate (48.3 per 1,000 children).
Child Welfare & Protection
In the Mid-West Region including Limerick, Tusla – the Child and Family Agency Year End Data 2021 reports 3,813 referrals (a rate of 40 per 1,000 population 0-17 years) to Tusla, lower than the national average (45 per 1,000 population 0-17). In all recent years (2014-2021), the main source of referral is An Garda Síochána (37-39%). In 2021, there were 549 children resident in the Mid-West region in the care of Tusla, a rate of 5.7 per 1,000 (above the state average, 4.9 per 1,000). In 2022, the number decreased to 538 children in the care of Tusla (5.6 per 1,000 population). The rate of children in the care of Tusla in the Mid-West Region has decreased since the years 2014-2018 (over 590 in each year).
While the number of children in high risk categories are small relative to the total population of children in Limerick City and County, they represent the most vulnerable children. Furthermore, the numbers are likely to understate the actual number of children at risk as they are based on known and reported cases.
Young People at Risk of Offending
In 2019, the number of individual children resident in Limerick referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Programme was 427 children (a rate of 20.2 children aged 10-17 years per 1,000 children and slightly above the national average of 19.6 per 1,000). The number of referrals where the offence took place in Limerick is higher at 776 referrals (2019). In the case of both indicators, the number of referrals is down compared with 2018 (by -4% in the case of referrals from children resident in Limerick and by -17% in terms of the location of the offence in Limerick) while the rate increased on average across the state between 2018 and 2019.
The number of children referred to Garda Youth Diversion in Limerick Garda Division (427 children in 2019 compared with 663 in 2012) decreased in line with the trend in the state. Generally, higher rates of referrals are found in more urbanised areas (cities) especially the Dublin Metropolitan Region and in inner city areas. In the Southern Region (Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Kerry), Limerick Garda Division returns the second highest rate of children referred into Garda Youth Diversion after Cork City (665 referrals and a rate of 27.2 per 1,000 in 2019).
Based on the national pattern, referral rates are higher for boys (2.5 times higher) compared with girls and 70% are for children in older age groups (15-17 years). With Limerick Garda Division including both city and county, the problem of youth offending / risk of offending is not fully captured in this analysis. With the exception of two Garda Youth Diversion projects in Rathkeale, all other Garda Youth Diversion Projects (five) are located in the city. Rates of referrals of children into Garda Youth Diversion are likely to be significantly higher if the analysis related to the city only. However, data are not available for Limerick city only.
Health Outcomes for Children
The key statistics related to health outcomes for children at the level of administrative county – Limerick City and County – are mostly in line with national averages.
Immunisation rates at 12 months and 24 months are slightly above the national average for the Limerick Local Health Office (90% Limerick compared with a national average of 88% at 12 months and 93.3% for Limerick compared with a national average of 91% at 24 months).
The rate of hospital discharges of children per 1,000 children by county of residence and the rate of discharge of children with a principle diagnosis of injury, poisoning and other external causes (2020) shows that Limerick is close to the national average on both indicators (rate of 22.5 children per 1,000 children resident in Limerick discharged from hospital compared with a national average of 24 per 1,000 and 2.8 children per 1,000 discharged with a principle diagnosis of injury poisoning or other external cause compared with a national average of 2.5 per 1,000).
The number and rates of children per 100,000 admissions to psychiatric hospitals / units and child and adolescent units by county of residence is low generally (10 children and a rate of 21.2 per 100,000 for Limerick compared with a national average of 40.4 per 100,000 in 2020). This indicator does not pick up on lower level difficulties that are experienced by children and young people in terms of mental health issues.
Breast-feeding rates on discharge of mothers from hospital are significantly lower for Limerick City and County (52.2%) compared with the national average of 61%. A campaign to promote and support breast-feeding was delivered in Limerick under Healthy Ireland in 2018 – “We’re Breast-feeding Friendly”.
Children with Disabilities and Children as Carers
The rates of children registered with an intellectual disability by county (2.4 per 1,000 children for Limerick compared with a national average of 4.5) and with a physical and sensory disability (1.2 for Limerick compared with a national average of 2.34) are lower for Limerick compared with the national average (2020).
The number and rate of children that act as carers (regular unpaid personal help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness) in Limerick is 251 children and a rate of 5.3 per 1,000 children compared with a national average of 5.1 per 1,000.
Level of Maternal Education
The level of education of the mother is known to have an impact on child outcomes. In Limerick, the percentage of mothers of children with low education (no formal education or primary only) is 8.9%, slightly above the national average (8.1%). Local Limerick data are not available to examine variations in rates between different types of areas (disadvantaged compared with average communities) and by social groups. Evidence-based research in Limerick (2010) showed significantly lower levels of maternal education in disadvantaged areas of the city. It confirmed general findings from wider research that better outcomes for children are achieved for households / mothers which have higher levels of socio-economic status (based on occupations) and with higher levels of education in particular.
Child Well-being & Satisfaction with their Lives
Regional level survey data indicate a high level of child well-being with 89.4% of children in the Mid-West Region indicating in 2018 that they are “happy with their lives”. This is slightly above the state average on the same indicator (86.3%). The percentage of children indicating that they are “happy with their lives” has been decreasing slightly since 2010 (90.5% in 2010, 89.5% in 2014 in the Mid-West Region) and the same trend is reflected at national level.
Based on surveys with children aged 10-17 years, children are less satisfied with the environment of their area - 60% of children in the Mid-West Region report that “there are good places in their area to spend free time” compared with 67% across all regions and 78% in the region with the highest satisfaction rates on this indicator (the South East region).
Feeling Safe and Participation in Civic Life
Based on national level data (2018), 90.4% of all children report “feeling safe in the area where they live”. However, Traveller children (82.9%), children from immigrant backgrounds (88.3%) and children with chronic illness (87.5%) are less likely to report feeling safe. Traveller children report the lowest rates of safety where they live.
Based on a local study of needs of children and young people in Limerick County (10-18 years) conducted by Limerick Youth Services, certain minority groups of young people face greater difficulties than their mainstream peers. These include LGBTQ young people, immigrants to Ireland and Traveller young people.
One in four of all young people included in the study reported that it is not clear to them who to approach in the community if they feel unsafe, and one in three reported that they have “sometimes been treated badly on-line”.
This study also found that often young people do not feel that their voice is always heard at home, at school and in their community and two out of three young people state they would like more opportunities to volunteer in their community.
One in three young people aged 16-18 years express dissatisfaction with the levels of information available on sexual health. A significant number of young people in rural Limerick wish to access support to stop, reduce or avoid substance misuse.
Services for children and families
Across Limerick City and County, based on the Pobal Annual Survey (2020/2021), there are 191 Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School Age Childcare Services (SAC) contracted to private and community providers to deliver schemes funded by the Department of Children Equality Disability Integration and Youth (DCEDIY). The main funding schemes are the National Childcare Scheme, Early Childhood Care and Education and Community Childcare Subvention Plus. Childcare services are delivered by 174 childcare facilities across Limerick, 122 in the former Limerick County and 53 in the city.
Of the 191 ELC and SAC services, 73% of services in Limerick are delivered by private providers (74% national average) and 27% by community providers (26% national average). Community childcare facilities and services are concentrated in disadvantaged areas. The capacity of the services across Limerick is for 4,880 childcare places in 2020/21. In that year, 3,904 children were enrolled and 976 places were vacant. The high vacancy rate in this year (25%) was linked to the impact of COVID-19 and is not likely to continue.
Childcare fees in Limerick City and County are below the national average - €175.48 full-time, €103.54 part time and €72.52 sessional rate compared with the national averages (€186.84 full-time, €110.92 part-time and €74.20 sessional rates respectively). Fees are highest in urban areas of the state, especially in the greater Dublin area and Cork City, and in private services.
In terms of specific services to support families and targeting disadvantaged population, there are four Family Resource Centres in Limerick – in Croom and Hospital in the east of the County and in Southill and Ballynanty in Limerick City. These are core-funded by Tusla – the Child and Family Agency. These are based in communities, within community and voluntary organisations, and provide a range of universal and targeted services and development opportunities to meet the needs of families. There is no Family Resource Centre in west Limerick despite significant levels of deprivation in some west Limerick towns (e.g., Rathkeale).
 Department of Justice, Garda Youth Diversion Statistics, https://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Publications-youth-justice-children-family?opendocument&start=0&year=2020
 Data collated in State of the Nation’s Children report series. Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/1f703-state-of-the-nations-children/
 Limerick Youth Service (2019). Baseline Study & Needs Analysis of Young People Aged 10-18 in Rural County Limerick
 Data from Pobal Early Years Sector Profile Report 2020/21. https://www.pobal.ie/app/uploads/2022/05/Pobal_22_EY_20-21-Report_final_2.pdf