Written Answers. - Homeless Children.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

569 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health and Children the initiatives taken by his Department to help children who are homeless in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1600/99]

It is recognised that the problem of homeless children/young people is most acute in the Eastern Health Board region. In 1998, an average of eight young people per night presented to the social work service operating outside normal officer hours and the Eastern Health Board estimates that 400 young people are out of home in the region each year.

In general, when homeless children and young people come to the attention of a health board, every effort is made to reunite them with their family or to arrange to have them placed in foster care or residential care as appropriate. Social work support, advice, information and counselling to include counselling for families and individuals is offered.

Recent developments in the Eastern Health Board include an emergency residential centre for children under 12 years of age opened earlier this month on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital. Agreement has been reached between the Eastern Health Board and the Salvation Army for the provision of a reception centre and six overnight beds for use by the out of hours services. The overnight beds service is now operating. Additional facilities such as a day reception centre providing food, shelter and a gateway to other relevant services and emergency accommodation for boys will be opening in the near future at other locations in the Dublin area.

A forum on youth homelessness has now been established in the Eastern Health Board region with representation from the key voluntary organisations, Dublin Corporation and the Eastern Health Board. It is my intention to launch a series of new initiatives for homeless youth in 1999. I will be working with the health boards and relevant voluntary agencies to prepare details which I will then announce.