The purpose of this paper is to examine the discursive rationalities shaping Irish child policy, with a particular focus on the rationality of “better with less” and its association with an intensified focus on the early years. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis there was a shift towards universal provision of early years services as part of the better with less agenda – the paper critically examines the assumptions which shaped this policy reform.
The paper is based on analysis of the texts of the two national child policy plans produced to date in Ireland – The Children, Their Lives 2000–2010 and Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures 2014–2020.
Ireland adopted its first national children’s strategy The Children, Their Lives in 2000, associated with an initial shift to a more technocratic, investment-oriented approach to policy making. The emphasis on economic returns is more strongly evident in the successor adopted in 2014. Informed by the “better with less” agenda Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures has a strong focus on early years provision as offering the most significant potential for returns, particularly in relation to “disadvantaged” children. This position not only objectifies children but is associated with a set of assumptions about the nature of “disadvantage” and those affected by it which ignores the wider context of unequal social, political and economic relations.
National children’s strategies have not been explicitly looked at previously as a form of governmentalization of government and there has been limited analysis to date in Ireland or elsewhere of the better with less agenda in the context of child policy, gaps which this paper seeks to address.
The author is grateful to the (then) Office of the Minister for Children, Republic of Ireland for funding some of the research associated with this article. Grateful thanks also to Nessa Winston, Jim Campbell and Stephan Koeppe for comments at various stages and to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments which has been of immense benefit in improving the article.
Smith, K. (2019), "Better with less: (Re)governmentalizing the government of childhood", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 39 No. 1/2, pp. 68-83. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-10-2017-0122Download as .RIS
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