I do not know whether the Taoiseach read an article by Kitty Holland in the News Review section of The Irish Times on Saturday. The article laid bare an appalling and shameful scandal concerning the number of homeless children in present-day Ireland, particularly in Dublin. Tonight, 700 children will be sleeping in hostels, hotel rooms or other forms of emergency accommodation. These children are not in their own bedrooms and are not in what they could call their homes or communities. There is only one reason for it: their parents cannot pay the rent. This is a country-wide problem. There are around 118 children in this situation outside Dublin, but it has been particularly acute in Dublin over the past 18 months. In May 2013, there were about 58 adults with children in emergency accommodation - bed and breakfast accommodation, hotel rooms and so on. Fast forward to November 2013, and that figure had doubled to 128 adults with children in emergency accommodation. By May 2014 the figure had risen to 184, and in October 2014, we were looking at 421 adults and around 700 children in emergency accommodation.
That is shameful by any standards, particularly if we are meant to cherish all the children of the nation equally. The fundamental issue in an emergency and crisis response sense is that the rent allowance caps introduced by the Tánaiste have exacerbated the situation beyond belief. Essentially, someone in receipt of rent allowance can pay only a certain amount of rent because of the cap. It has proved catastrophic for the families concerned. These are low income families and the majority of them have not experienced homelessness previously. The anxiety, stress and trauma it causes to parents and their children are enormous. A five year old child was quoted as saying, "I can't draw my house - I don't remember what it looks like....At weekends I don't have friends come to play."
Does the Taoiseach accept this is a crisis and that it demands an emergency response? Will he immediately raise the rent allowance caps as an emergency measure to facilitate people on low incomes to meet the spiralling rents that have increased dramatically in the past 12 months, particularly in the city of Dublin?