QUESTION NO: 16
DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Dr. James Reilly)
by Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan
for ORAL ANSWER on 27/05/2015
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the measures he is taking to address the welfare of children living in homeless emergency accommodation for long periods of time; his views on their welfare, especially in relation to nourishment, social interaction, and isolation from friends and extended families; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Maureen O’Sullivan
I understand that the Deputy is referring to situations where children and their families find themselves without a home and living in emergency accommodation. In these cases, the primary need is for a family home and responsibility for this lies with local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.
The December 2014 Action Plan to Address Homelessness includes a commitment for Tusla and Dublin City Council to coordinate operations to ensure that services are fully responsive to the need for family support services, including, where necessary, protection and welfare services that might arise for families in emergency accommodation.
When there is no child welfare and protection concern, the role of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is to provide family support, in the same way as it does for families in the general community. Where circumstances permit, Tusla can assist families by way of guidance and parenting supports through its family support services. Where Tusla identifies underlying problems, for example mental health issues, it can refer the family to the appropriate services. Tusla has had meetings with Focus Ireland, the Department of Social Protection and Dublin City Council in relation to vulnerable families and it is intended to develop a multi-agency protocol to clarify responsibilities with regard to homelessness.
I am well aware that homelessness is very disruptive to normal family life and is a major issue that this Government is intent on tackling. The effects on children can be damaging, particularly where the parents may be experiencing their own problems. We are all familiar with the benefits for a child of good routine, stable friendships and family ties. Homelessness can only have a negative impact on a child’s personal growth, security and education. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, with the local authorities, is working hard to address this problem. Earlier this year, for example, the Minister issued a formal instruction to local authorities in Dublin and other urban centres on social housing, with a particular reference to those who have used emergency accommodation.
I consider family homelessness to be a very serious issue, and central to this are efforts to end the need to use emergency accommodation. Tusla continues to respond to family support needs, either directly or through commissioned services that can provide support to parents and children who find themselves in this situation.