An Taoiseach has to realise how children are at risk when homeless

This letter is an urgent appeal from 14 organisations who work with children to call on An Taoiseach to show leadership on the issue of child homelessness.

An Taoiseach has to realise how children are at risk when homeless

The number of children who are homeless with their families has doubled in the last year to a current total of more than 1,500.

As a result of Ireland’s housing crisis, children are living in unsuitable emergency accommodation including hotels and bed and breakfasts. Living in overcrowded conditions, with a family often sharing one bedroom, is highly stressful for children, posing immediate threats to their welfare, well-being, mental health and their childhood.

The rapid rise in homelessness stems from a housing crisis that has been growing for some time. We now have over 5,000 people trapped in emergency accommodation. While recognising that no one should be homeless, this letter is focusing on the immediate and profound impacts the housing crisis is having on a generation of children in Ireland.

Coordinated action from across government is needed to address this ongoing crisis. We

believe this must be led by you, An Taoiseach, in the best interests of Ireland’s children.

Emergency accommodation for anything more than the short term is not acceptable for anyone, yet some families are being housed in these unsuitable conditions for months on end.

Homeless children often have to travel long distances to school. They have no safe and secure place to play or do their homework. The lack of cooking facilities in hotels and B&Bs means that families are living on takeaways rather than nutritious meals.

Some hotels will close over Christmas, leaving families uncertain about where they will be on Christmas Day.

Living in unsuitable emergency accommodation also poses child welfare and protection risks which are not being sufficiently managed.

For example, many children are sharing communal areas with strangers and it is unclear whether staff in hotels or emergency accommodation have been Garda vetted to assess their suitability for working in proximity to children.

Other jurisdictions have recognised the damage that emergency/temporary accommodation can cause to children, have declared it unsuitable for children, and have limited its use.

It should only be used in exceptional circumstances, and even then, only for a maximum of six weeks.

We believe a similar standard must be set in Ireland.

This is both a children’s rights and a child protection issue.

As leader of the government, we are calling for your urgent intervention to ensure that the State meets its obligations to children.

We need urgent and coordinated action across government to:

(1) Ensure that families are supported to remain in their homes and prevent homelessness

occurring in the first place;

(2) Ensure that appropriate, supported,

temporary accommodation for families who are homeless is made available;

(3) Ensure that families are only housed in emergency accommodation for a short period, and

(4) Improve supports to ease the transition into more sustainable long-term housing.

(5) Ensure that all young people leaving care have access to accommodation and support.

However the housing crisis must ultimately be tackled through the delivery of social housing if we are to make a lasting difference to the lives of individuals, children and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Taoiseach, we are appealing to you to act now to tackle this ongoing scandal and act to protect these children and the many more at risk of losing their homes.

Grainia Long

ISPCC

Tanya Ward

Children’s Rights Alliance;

Fiona Ryan

Sonas

Fergus Finlay

Barnardos

Niall McLoughlin

Irish Youth Foundation

Karen Kieran

One Family

Shari McDaid

Mental Health Reform

Max Doyle

One for Ireland

Ashley Balbirnie

Focus Ireland

Niamh Randell

Simon Communiy

John Mark McCafferty

Society of St Vincent de Paul

Margaret Burns

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice

Jennifer Gargan

EPIC

Donal O’Malley

Irish Association of Social Workers

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