The government has scored a C grade in the Children's Rights Alliance annual report card for its overall performance but its efforts on homelessness were deemed a failure, while concerns persist in other areas, including mental health.
In what is the CRA's 11th such report, the government's overall performance outstripped that of the previous two years.
The highest individual grade awarded his year is an ‘A-‘ for ‘LGBTI+ Children and Young People’, while an F grade was awarded for ‘Child and Family Homelessness’, with the overall homeless figure hovering around the 10,000-mark for much of the past 12 months, including thousands of children.
Tanya Ward, CRA chief executive, said that F grade was the first time under this Programme for Government that it had awarded a score that low.
"We know the negative impact that homelessness has on their education, their self-esteem, their peer relationships and their health. A housing emergency must be declared and the building of public housing must become the Government’s top priority. Childhood does not stand still and radical action is urgently needed."
The report said there was only limited progress on the commitment to end the use of unsuitable long-term emergency accommodation for homeless families, with nearly 4,000 children experiencing homelessness. It also noted the growth in just a year in the number of children in emergency accommodation outside Dublin.
It said the length of stay in the country's 26 family hubs was not captured. Alison Connolly of Focus Ireland referred to the "completely unacceptable" one-night-only emergency homeless accommodation options and an over-reliance on self-accommodation.
She said that compounds trauma for children who are homeless. The CRA called for time limits on the use of emergency accommodation.
The report card is based on how the government fares against previously announced commitments, and is adjudicated on by a panel of experts.
Among the report's recommendations is that government legislate to end the long-term use of unsuitable emergency accommodation for children and families; implement Housing First commitments as a matter of urgency; and fully implement the National Quality Standards Framework for homeless services and establish a robust compliance framework with an independent inspectorate.
Child & family #homelessness awarded an F grade in @ChildRightsIRL #ReportCard2019 launched this morning. Homelessness is devastating for adults, children & families. The almost 10k men, women & children in emergency accommodation deserve better pic.twitter.com/mCR35m3cGr— Niamh Randall (@NiamhRandall) February 26, 2019
Ms Ward referred to "incremental progress" by the Government in a number of areas. Grades improved on those awarded in 2018 in 17 different categories in this year's report. Grades either slipped or remained the same as those in 2018 in nine categories.
The government also received a D- grade in the categories of ‘Traveller and Roma Children’ and ‘Mental Health’ - on the latter the report referred to the lack of public in-patient beds for the under-18s and waiting lists for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
On education, positive progress was noted though CRA pointed out that key provisions of the EPSEN (Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs) Act 2004 remain unimplemented and the full education rights of children with disabilities and special educational needs remain unfulfilled.
The report also makes a number of recommendations, including a national strategy on child sexual violence.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the report's findings would be studied in detail to ensure progress in all areas.