Two Irish charities that deal with vulnerable children and families have each seen a marked increase in demands for their services over the past year. Housing charity Focus Ireland helped more than 15,500 people who were homeless or at risk of losing their homes last year — a rise of 7% compared to 2017.
At the same time, Barnardos supported 17,799 children and families across its 41 centres in 2018 — more than any other year on record. Demands for Focus Ireland services also reached an all-time high, representing an increase of 14% since 2016. The charity’s annual report also revealed it supported 1,600 families in 2018.
Speaking at the launch of the report, incoming CEO Pat Dennigan said 2018 was a bleak year: “More men, women and children experienced homelessness than ever before.
“More emergency shelters and family hubs were opened across the country, and by 2018, we saw more homes filled than in recent years. It was still far short of what people needed.”
Mr Dennigan said the housing and homelessness crisis is not an “unavoidable cost” of the economic recovery of recent years: “That takes no account of the damage that this crisis continues to inflict on people and families all over the country.”
Focus Ireland provided 176 homes under its housing wing, Focus Housing, to those coming out of homelessness last year. Meanwhile, the annual report from Barnardo’s detailed its support for a record number of children and families in 2018.
The charity also indicated a change in direction by announcing a commitment to become a trauma-informed organisation that helps children and their families to build resilience and overcome the impact of adverse childhood experiences.
Suzanne Connolly, Barnardos CEO said:
“Today, as a provider of services to the most vulnerable children and families in our society, we appeal to the Government to significantly increase our funding in the next budget. The funding shortfall, which is €8m annually, has to be found by us, through our own fundraising efforts and with the generous support of the Irish public.
“This is particularly relevant, as we strive to evolve the organisation and the services we provide to meet the needs of thousands of children and their families in Ireland.”
The deepening homelessness crisis was further highlighted by the Children’s Rights Alliance which, in a pre-budget submission, released figures showing that a total of 3,778 children are now considered to be homeless — a record.
“The Budget is the last chance for this Government to do something to free families trapped in poverty,” warned CRA chief executive Tanya Ward.