14 Nov 2019, 12.01

Reviews of responses to homelessness like family hubs are called for in reports published by two Oireachtas Committees in Leinster House today.

Reviews of responses to homelessness like family hubs are called for in reports published by two Oireachtas Committees in Leinster House today.

Both reports call for an acceleration in the provision of social and affordable housing, an independent review of the use of family hubs and independent inspections and monitoring of standards in homeless accommodation.

The Impact of Homelessness on Children report, by the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, and the Child and Family Homelessness report by the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government were launched this afternoon.

Combined, the reports make 34 recommendations to address homelessness and its effects on children and families.

Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs Chairman, Alan Farrell TD said: “Homelessness remains a stain on our society that we, collectively, must resolve to remedy as quickly as possible.

“The impact of homelessness on children can be devastating in every facet of their young lives. Simple things like having a secure place to live, share meals with their families, do their homework, and have friends around to play with are out of the reach of the thousands of children currently experiencing homelessness. This cannot be allowed to continue and we, as a society must act to prevent long-term social and emotional damage to children, as a result of homelessness.”

Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government, Noel Rock TD said homelessness is one of the most pressing issues facing Irish society at present.

Figures for August show the number of homeless families in the State at 1,725 with 3,848 accompanying homeless children. Children now account for more than one in three people in emergency accommodation.

Deputy Rock said: “The Committee acknowledges that the root cause of homelessness in the State is due to the shortage of social and affordable housing, and while it will take time to implement the necessary changes to the housing system, the Committee would like to see measures put in place the mitigate and reduce the effects of homelessness on families and children as best as possible, as well as implementing system change so the situation we are faced with today does not reoccur in the future.”

The Impact of Homelessness on Children report by the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs report makes 20 recommendations including:

  • The Government should accelerate the provision of social and affordable housing to homeless families over the next two years.
  • An examination of the possibility of enumerating the right to housing in the Constitution as a matter or priority.
  • An end to placing children in hotel and B&B accommodation because of the destructive impact cramped living conditions have on children’s health.
  • An independent review of the response to homelessness, including family hubs.
  • An independent inspectorate to monitor homelessness services standards.
  • The development of a national family homelessness strategy.
  • The needs of sick children in emergency accommodation to be identified and healthcare access guaranteed.
  • All-year Leap cards provided to homeless children and their parents in Dublin to ensure transport to medical appointments and hospitals.
  • Improved data collection on homelessness.
  • Provision of extra supports for schools attended by children in homeless families.
  • Free access to OPW sites during school holidays for homeless children.
  • A phased reduction on the use of private rental market for housing provision.
  • Acceleration of the provision of social and affordable housing to homeless families over the next two years.

The Child and Family Homelessness report from the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Governments makes 14 recommendations including:

  • Capital investment in and output of social and affordable housing be significantly increased.
  • An end to the provision of one-night only emergency accommodation – when a family has nowhere to go between 9.30am and 8pm.
  • Consideration be given to expanding the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority to allow it to inspect and monitor all homeless services.
  • Statutory minimum standards and criteria for family hubs.
  • Restricting the right of landlords to issue vacant possession notices to quit when selling their property.
  • Practical supports, such as case managers and child support workers, for each family in emergency accommodation.

Children’s rights and homeless organisations gave evidence and made submissions on child and family homelessness to TDs and Senators at meetings of the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Numerous stakeholders made submissions and presentations on the impact of homelessness on children to the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs as part of its investigation on the issue.

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Robert Kennedy-Cochrane
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pressoffice@oireachtas.ie
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