Written Answers. - Homelessness Incidence.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

97 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the incidence of homelessness in the major cities; and the policy proposals, if any, being pursued by his Department to ease the plight of the homeless. [27288/98]

Pat Upton

Question:

132 Mr. Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has satisfied himself with the role his Department plays in addressing the problem of homelessness; the steps, if any, he has taken to deal with the problem; and the future plans, if any, he has in this regard. [1968/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 132 together.

The compilation of data on adult homelessness is a matter for the Department of the Environment and Local Government.

The nature and extent of the problem of homeless young people varies between health boards and between community care areas. Because of the transient nature of the problem and the transient lifestyle of some young people it is difficult to estimate the number of homeless young people throughout Ireland and in particular on a city by city basis. It is recognised that the problem of homeless children/young people is most acute in the Eastern Health Board region followed by the Southern Health Board region. In 1998, an average of eight young people per night presented to the social work service operating outside normal office hours and the Eastern Health Board estimates that 400 young people are out of home in the region each year. In the Southern Health Board 115 referrals were made during 1998.

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, financial support and counselling to include counselling and mediation for families and individuals is offered.

Since 1993, and up to the end of 1997, an additional allocation of £43.5 million revenue on an annualised basis has been invested in the development of childcare and family support services including services for the young homeless. A further £8 million was made available for this purpose in 1998 and £13 million has been made available in 1999.
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 Peamount 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.
The Southern Health Board currently provides a range of support services to young people who present as homeless, which can be accessed through the board's homeless adolescent unit – a dedicated social work service who work directly with young people who are homeless or who are at risk from being homeless. Initiatives provided include access to emergency shelter, semi/ supported accommodation options and longer term independent living options as well as a range of financial supports for clothing, food and accommodation.
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.
The Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion at its meetings on 10 June 1998, decided to adopt a proposal from the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs for an initiative in relation to adult homelessness, viz. the development of an integrated response to the many issues which affect homeless people and to cover issues such as
–suitable responses to homelessness, including emergency, transitional and long-term responses,
–secondary issues which have a particular effect on homeless people including health, education, employment, home-making.
A cross-department team under the chairmanship of the Department of the Environment and Local Government was set up to develop measures, in consultation with the appropriate statutory agencies and expert groups and to report back to the Cabinet committee on these measures, including estimated costs and available funding.
In the Eastern Health Board area, a joint Eastern Health Board/Dublin Corporation homeless initaitive was established in 1996. The purpose of this initiative is to achieve more effective services for adult homeless people through analysis, plannign and the development of a strong and effective partnership between all the agencies involved.