Written Answers. - Homeless Children.

Dick Spring

Ceist:

142 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the specific plans if any, his Department have to further expand services for homeless children in (1) the urban areas outside Dublin and (2) rural areas throughout the country; and if he will publish a timetable for this expansion.

Dick Spring

Ceist:

143 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Health if, in light of the fact that the recent expansion of services for homeless children still does not meet the needs of that population, he will outline the specific plans, if any, his Department have for further expansion of these services; and if he will publish a timetable for the implementation of these reforms.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

As I indicated in response to a question from the Deputy on 3 March last, the Government have initiated a wide ranging package of developments with a view to effecting substantial improvements in the availability of services and accommodation for the young homeless. The aim of this programme is to ensure that no young person should have to sleep rough on the streets of our cities and towns.
I am pleased to inform the House that considerable progress is being made. Over 40 additional places for the young homeless are being provided in Dublin; 12 of these are already available and I expect the balance to be in place shortly. New services are also being developed in Cork, Athlone, Limerick, Galway and Sligo which will provide about 30 extra places.
Amongst the important new developments in the Eastern Health Board area are: a new emergency hostel providing 10 places for homeless girls is now in place at Sherrard House, Dublin 1; a new therapeutic unit for 8 difficult adolescents (boys and girls) operated by the Eastern Health Board near Naas Co. Kildare will open shortly; a new residential unit for 10 boys to be operated by the Los Angeles Society is due to open in Dalkey in June 1992; the hostel for homeless boys run by the Catholic Social Service Conference has been re-located from Percy Place to newly refurbished accommodation at Eccles Street resulting in an increase from 10 to 12 in the number of places; a new after-care service for up to 4 boys leaving that hostel has been established at Lennox Street.
In addition, the Eastern Health Board are taking a number of other initiatives, including: the establishment of an "after hours" social work service to deal exclusively with the young homeless; a "Carers for Young People Scheme" to provide family care for adolescents who have had difficulty adapting to other settings; and developing other short term accommodation such as digs, sheltered flats and semi-independent living accommodation.
While the problem of youth homelessness arises mainly in the Dublin area, it is not, of course, confined to that area. Discussions have been held with the Chief Executive Officers of the other health boards concerning appropriate measures to assist the young homeless in their areas. The aim is to ensure, as far as possible, that each health board is self-sufficient in residential places. This is fully in keeping with the Child Care Act and the new obligations it imposes on health boards to provide accommodation for homeless children. Progress is being made on a number of fronts: a new hostel for homeless youth is being established in Athlone by a voluntary group in association with the Midland Health Board; a new residential service for 8-10 adolescent boys is being developed near Limerick by the Mid-Western Health Board; additional places have been provided at Stranorlar, Co. Donegal for children and adolescents with behavioural problems; a new hostel for homeless youngsters is being developed in Sligo by a voluntary body with support from the North-Western Health Board; the building of a new residential unit for teenage boys in Cork city is now completed and will open shortly. A specialised foster care programme for difficult children is also being developed by the Southern Health Board; and a new hostel for homeless girls is being developed in Galway by the Western Health Board in association with a local voluntary group.
When all of these developments are fully in place, they will represent a substantial addition to the range of facilities and services currently available to assist the young homeless. As the Deputy can see from the developments which I have outlined, the problem of youth homelessness is being targeted by the Government for particular attention. I might add that the need for further facilities to deal with this problem is being urgently examined by the health boards in consultation with the relevant voluntary agencies in the context of the additional £2 million for child care set aside in the budget.