Peter McVerry Trust: Report on family hub centres could further stigmatise children

Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust

A homelessness charity says it is ‘really concerned’ that a report from the Ombudsman for Children’s Office on family hub centres runs the risk of further stigmatising those living in temporary accommodation centres.

Pat Doyle, CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, made the comments following the release of the No Place Like Home report which consulted 37 children aged five to 17, and the parents of 43 children under the age of five.

Among those consulted was eight-year-old Hannah who, according to the report cried and told us that the Hub was “like a children’s jail”.

Those consulted are living in hubs in Cork, Dublin, and Limerick.

There are 26 such hubs across the country.

Mr Doyle said there is an obvious need for the organisation to listen and reflect on the report’s findings, and to learn what it can from it.

However, he said none of the Peter McVerry Trust’s 10 hubs were included in the report, and that its findings are based on a limited sample: “My concern is that the family hubs have to be seen in context.

"They are a temporary stay, which were meant to be a leg-up or a better quality facility than what families were telling us about hotels.

"They were in response to families telling us that their experience in hotels was not good, that they were in one room, that there was nowhere to do homework, nowhere to play, nowhere to do laundry, nowhere to cook your own food."

“So family hubs, in the middle of a housing crisis - and that's the real issue, a lack of housing supply- were meant to be somewhere better, somewhere more positive,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1.

He said he worries that the language in the report could further stigmatise children: “I'm really concerned that the children that we have in our hubs will be even more ashamed to talk about hubs now because the headlines in the papers refer to hubs as being like a jail, and you know the way children slag children, children can bully children and I don't want that word to become the only narrative.

Some of our children have blossomed in the hubs.

Mr Doyle said parents have told the Trust that they have been able to potty train and teach their children to walk in family hubs in a way they couldn’t in hotel rooms, and do not need to be in bed with their lights out early as they do in single-room accommodation.

“The real issue here is that we need to get away from B&Bs, away from hubs and into social housing and we need more social housing and we need it faster,” Mr Doyle said.

“We need to increase our rapid builds, we need to increase our Repair and Leasing Scheme, we need to increase our Buy and Renew Schemes because no child wants to be in any type of homeless accommodation be it or hotel, hub, or temporary stay.

"They want their own home and they have a right to their own home, and we should be doing everything we can to get that,” he said.

Speaking on the same programme, Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland praised the report and welcomed its findings on what he described as the absence of government policy: “This crisis has been with us for a very long time now, and it looks if it's going to be with us for some years to come.

"So we need a plan, and we need some sort notion from Government as to how long they think this crisis is going to last and what we need to do in it."

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