Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is committed to supporting children, parents and communities in dealing with the impact of homelessness on their lives. The short and long term effects of homelessness on children are well documented. While Tusla does not have a direct role in the provision of housing or accommodation for homeless families, a range of services, from prevention and early intervention through to child welfare and protection, are provided.
Tusla works in partnership with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and is a key partner on several interagency groups. Bilateral meetings between the DRHE and Tusla take place monthly. Tusla supports ‘one-stop-shop’ assessment centres being led by the DRHE. Tusla staff participate as required on issues involving child protection and welfare, educational welfare and Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) services. The Tusla Homelessness Liaison Officer plays a key role in coordinating this multi-agency response.
Tusla provides funding to Anew which provides residential support to women who are homeless and pregnant and supports to exit homelessness. In addition, I understand from Tusla that the Agency, working with the DRHE, has assisted in bringing about change whereby homeless families with new born babies are discharged into more stable accommodation hubs or private emergency accommodation for a minimum period of 6 weeks.
Services from Tusla are targeted to needs. A new born and their mother identified as needing support will be referred to the appropriate service such as Prevention Partnership and Family Support Services or community based agencies.
Tusla works in partnership with a number of Family Resource Centres (FRCs) to provide dedicated services for families experiencing homelessness. Tusla has also supported the evening service at the Focus Ireland Coffee Shop, a service which includes a range of supports to homeless families such as high quality food and rooms for children to do homework supported by an educational tutor.
In addition, Tusla two family support workers in the Focus Ireland Family Homeless Action Team. Other family support workers on this team are funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Tusla endeavours to respond to the needs of homeless families at the earliest possible opportunity. The length of time a family waits for services varies depending on the unique family circumstances, the circumstances of the referral, and the best interests of the child. Waiting lists are addressed by constantly reviewing unallocated cases and prioritisation of allocation. Cases are prioritised by responding to the child at most risk. It is important to note that while all Family Support Practitioners may potentially have a role in working with homeless families their family support role is not solely dedicated to working with homeless families.