By now I feel everyone knows the extent of the housing crisis in the country at the moment, the numbers left homeless, in hostels, on the streets and the hundreds of young children living in emergency accommodation. The knock-on effects of the crisis are equally as devastating; Children living in these situations are very much at risk of a lot of issues later in their lives. This is fuelling inequality because these are children of parents who have lost their jobs and homes. We are storing up incredible problems in the future for our children as a result of the impact of living in these situations. It goes against everything stated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government are supposed to put the best interests of the child first and do everything they can for the well-being of the child.
I have had calls about parents who cry themselves to sleep at night and many who are suffering from severe depression because of their situation. I’ve spoken to parents who are struggling to do the most basic parental tasks because of the stress created by the conditions they are not only forced to live in but to raise their children in. It is clear to me that not enough supports are in place for young single parents in emergency accommodation and some are not able to bring their children to school because their accommodation is unreachable without a car.
While the situation regarding emergency accommodation, and its enormous increase over the course of this administration, at the very least I would expect supports to be put in place to combat the emotional and stressful situations many people find themselves in while in emergency accommodation. At present the time for people being linked in with services can be over 8 months in some cases, the resulting supports take much longer.
One example I gave the Minister during a Dáil debate concerns a mother and child who are in emergency accommodation since last January. They still have no key worker. That is the reality and the Minister knows it as well as I do. It is obvious the difficulties this is causing. We know the effect on children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being. We know it affects their attendance at school. If they are not at school, they are not learning. Fortunately, I was able to put them in touch with the Family Resource Centre, which is providing support, but its budgets have also been cut dramatically. We are creating problems and children will leave school early as a result. Extra supports are needed for these children immediately.