With the number of homeless children and families in Ireland at unprecedented levels, the ISPCC is urging policy-makers to recognise children’s individual rights and to take action to protect thousands of childhoods.
The ISPCC continues to research developments internationally and uses these to inform its policy position, that changes required in this area include the introduction of legislation limiting the use of emergency accommodation. There was significant disappointment when the government failed to meet their stated objective of ending the use of inappropriate emergency accommodation by 1st July 2017.
Significant numbers of children in Ireland are now living long-term in emergency accommodation, where even their basic needs are not being met. This must not continue. The government must set and work to a meaningful target, to ensure that children are no longer accommodated for long periods of time in this way.
Between 2014 and 2016 the numbers of children who were homeless with their families had tripled and the ISPCC was encountering more families accessing services from hotel rooms and over-crowded extended family homes. Calls to Childline began to reflect the worry of some children with regard to losing their homes and the realities of living in unsuitable long-term emergency accommodation.
The ISPCC’s involvement with the issue of homelessness, as the national child protection charity, is informed by its experience of providing services to children and knowledge of child protection and welfare. Approaching this issue from a child protection perspective, the ISPCC identified a myriad of ways in which children are not being adequately protected and many of their rights as individuals are not being respected.
In January 2016 the ISPCC made recommendations to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, regarding the standards required to ensure children’s safety and welfare in emergency accommodation. The Committee concluded that the State must take all necessary measures to address the needs of those living in inadequate accommodation by increasing the availability of social housing and ensuring that all accommodation provided is appropriate to the needs of children.
The ISPCC shared its concerns with the Dáil Committee on Housing and Homelessness by making a submission which included a number of urgent recommendations. These recommendations included the need to; end the practice of placing families in hotel and B&B emergency accommodation and to legislate to outlaw same; develop minimum physical and management standards for such facilities and improve data collection and collation to ensure a needs-led approach to supporting and housing families.
Following the publication Rebuilding Ireland; Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness the ISPCC has continued to monitor progress of Government’s commitments in relation to ending the use the unsuitable accommodation and the development of standards for homeless accommodation. The ISPCC has consulted with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive in a bid to prioritise the protection and welfare of children and has also met with Minister Zappone regarding the commitments of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Such engagements with the Minister resulted in the policy to provide free public transport to those impacted and saw the provision of free Leap cards to homeless families.