Principal highlights developmental challenges seen among children impacted by homelessness

Principal highlights developmental challenges seen among children impacted by homelessness
File and unrelated image of boy in hotel room

The principal of a Dublin inner city school has said children impacted by homelessness are not able to develop properly because of their circumstances.

St Vincent's National School principal, Pat Courtney, was speaking at a political briefing organised by the Children's Rights Alliance on the No Child 2020 campaign on child poverty.

Handwriting is another way of measuring segmented development in a child who spent their early years in hotels or family hubs, said Mr Courtney.

“Can a child tell their left from their right? Increasingly these young kids cannot," he said.

He found that the young children enrolling in his school can not 'commando' crawl properly because or growing up in buggies and cots without space to crawl.

“The commando crawl is a common occupational therapy test and we are seeing kids who do not have that segmental development because they have grown up in buggies and cots without space to crawl."

He also spoke about how young people are suffering the effects of eating cheap fast food.

“We are bringing kids to our local dentist as their mouths are full of abscesses from eating cheap high sugar foods and in the school, we have had to buy Calpol to deal with the pain.”

Another speaker, Orla Cahill, a children's support worker with Focus Ireland said they are seeing children suffering from anxiety, behavioural issues and self-harming even after they left hotels and family hubs.

“People think they are okay once they get a home but the damage is done. We could be looking at issues with kids for years to come. And the kids carry the parent's anxiety and they blame their parents for their situation."

Sheila Wayman, a social worker with Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin said a child's illness could throw a parent's life upside down and paying the mortgage can become a problem.

“We expect parents to stay with their children when they are ill yet the domiciliary carers' allowance only kicks in when the child returns home after the hospital stay. In the meantime, the families are drifting into poverty."

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, who attended the meeting, said there should never be an acceptable number of children who are homeless or living in consistent poverty: “The aim has to be zero. I know we will never reach it but the aim has to to be there."

Later in the Dáil Tanaiste, Simon Coveney told Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, who also attended the meeting, that the concerns outlined by the Children's Rights Alliance on housing for children and families are a “big priority” for the Government.

- Additional reporting by Juno McEnroe

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