25 May 2017
By Tom Collins
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed his concern and dismay as it emerged this morning that 12 homeless families were told to present to Garda stations as no emergency beds were available.
The Cork South-Central TD said:
“Emergency accommodation is seen as a last resort for many families who find themselves homeless, but the situation these 12 families have found themselves in beggars belief.
“It is shameful that this situation has transpired; it is unprecedented.
“The Department and the Minister must act to resolve this shambolic situation as quickly as possible, and see to it that this does not happen again.
“Enda Kenny has left a legacy that has seen homeless figures increase by 300% under his watch. In 2011, when the Taoiseach assumed office there were 641 homeless children. Last month, 2, 563 children slept in Department of Housing funded emergency accommodation. Minister Coveney must take some of the responsibility for this.
“It is a wholly unsuitable practice, children should not be spending nights in Garda stations, or on the streets or public parks as it appears transpired, it raises significant child protection concerns, and is extremely unsuitable and possibly further traumatising children who are already in a traumatic situation.
“We have put the rights of the Child on a constitutional basis; their rights according to that should be paramount. It is clear that a Child Centred approach is not being taken in relation to homeless families.
“I echo the calls from Mike Allen of Focus for clearer law and guidelines from the Government on this; defining what responsivity Local Authorities have for these children.
“The legislation as it stands has too many grey areas, and allows Local Authorities and Government to wash their hands of the situation.
“There is a need for a statutory right to housing and shelter, and to assign statutory responsibility; currently there is no such responsibility on any authority.
“These are our most vulnerable children and the state has an obligation to protect them whatever situation they find themselves in.
“This again highlights the failures of successive governments, and is an indictment of the failed policies of the Government.”