A new advocacy report from Epic (Empowering People In Care) shows that 12% of its clients, who have been or are in the care system, were homeless.
The overall number of advocacy cases dealt with by Epic rose by 17% last year and has increased from 61 cases in 2009 to 589 in 2017.
On average, the young people dealt with by the organisation last year were aged 19, with care placement the top presenting issue, ahead of accommodation, aftercare, and other issues.
A fifth were in residential care and 19% were in general foster care, but while 13% were living independently, another 12% said they were homeless.
Among that number, there were 27 advocacy cases involving a young person aged 18 to 20 who was homeless. “Therefore, young people under the age of 21 accounted for one-half of all homeless advocacy cases,” said the report.
Epic’s CEO, Terry Dignan, said the figures illustrated how young people who have been in care need to be prioritised for housing.
“Approximately 450 young people leave care each year. Without stable accommodation life can be very challenging. I am asking for more co-operation between Tusla, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the Department of Housing to deliver solutions to prevent care leavers from accessing homeless accommodation. They must be prioritised for housing.”
The report also showed that 16% of cases involved a child or young person with a diagnosed special need, and that of those who sought help, 41% were in care, 22% were in aftercare, and 19% were categorised as ‘post-leaving care’.
Professor of Social Work at TCD, Robbie Gilligan, said extending care until people are 21 should be considered as the figures indicated many young people faced serious issues beyond the care leaving age of 18.
Meanwhile, another report published yesterday by Cope Galway showed that last year its homeless services dealt with 1,588 people, including 576 children.
It also showed 441 children could not be accommodated at its domestic abuse refuge last year due to lack of space.
Cope Galway chairman Eamon Bradshaw wrote: “We are particularly concerned about the impact of the housing crisis on children who have to live for long periods of time in hotels and B&Bs.
“Children are also affected by exposure to domestic abuse in their homes, and the lack of housing can often mean very limited choices in terms of options.”
*www.epic.ie and www.copegalway.ie