Housing crisis ‘forcing parents to leave children in care’

Parents are being forced to make “heart-breaking” decisions to leave their children in care because they are unable to secure appropriate accommodation, a leading children’s charity has said.

Barnardos was commenting on the impact of figures which recorded a 40% rise in the number of families living in emergency accommodation.

The charity’s head of advocacy, June Tinsley, said the latest Dublin Region Homeless Executive figures reveal that 371 families and 803 children were housed in emergency shelter last month.

“Sadly the increasing number of children living in emergency accommodation is not a surprise,” said Ms Tinsley. “Despite some action from the Government, risk factors for family homelessness have not been sufficiently addressed.”

She said rent supplements were “not near enough” to cover the actual cost of rents and that some landlords are not accepting rent supplement clients. She said some landlords were selling up, leaving families with nowhere to go.

Ms Tinsley said: “Speaking recently a Barnardos project worker told us: ‘A parent with three children has to move house because the landlord is selling. Mum is so desperate to get alternative accommodation she accepted a two-bed flat in a complex where rising damp and sewage issues are common. She is entitled to a three-bed due to her family size but nothing was available and she did not want to end up in emergency accommodation’.”

Ms Tinsley said the crisis was causing deep trauma. “We are working with parents who have been unable to secure access visits with their children because the parent was in emergency accommodation; parents who have had to make the heart-breaking decision to leave their children in care because they are unable to secure appropriate accommodation,” she said.

“We know of one child who couldn’t get onto a waiting list for an operation because he was living in emergency accommodation and therefore technically was of no fixed abode.

“So make no mistake. The housing crisis is still very real for too many children.”

Ms Tinsley said the “level of desperation is so acute” that, in some cases, parents are considering becoming homeless voluntarily in the hope that six months in emergency accommodation will secure them more stable homes.

She said that while the Government was taking steps to tackle the lack of social housing, their response to the private rented sector issues was insufficient.

“Rent supplement levels are woefully low, as are the Housing Assistance Payments caps meaning families have to make up the deficit to afford the rent being charged,” said Ms Tinsley.

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