The Minister for Children James Reilly has denied any responsibility for the protection of vulnerable children who have fallen into homelessness.
In response to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil’s Children’s Spokesperson Robert Troy, Minister Reilly said a child being homeless is not in itself enough to warrant concerns about their welfare.
The Minister also confirmed to Deputy Troy that the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, has no statutory responsibility for homeless children.
Deputy Troy explained, “The number of homeless families has doubled in less than a year. In Dublin alone, the latest figures show that there are 1,122 children who are homeless – and this number is rising every week. Given the gravity of the child homelessness crisis, I wrote to Minister Reilly seeking clarification about what care and in-reach plans are in place for children who have fallen homeless. I am shocked to learn that his answer is: none.
“The shocking truth is the Department of Children and the Child and Family Agency have absolutely no plan whatsoever to deal with the soaring numbers of homeless children in Ireland and Dublin in particular. In fact, Minister Reilly has actually dismissed the need for his department to look after these vulnerable children saying that being homeless is not enough of a reason to raise concerns about a child’s welfare. What planet is the Minister living on? Only this week, we saw that homeless families were kicked onto the streets because the credit card used by Dublin’s Regional Homeless Executive to secure emergency accommodation maxed out. Is the Minister seriously suggesting that three children under the age of 12 who are forced to sleep in an industrial estate overnight are not vulnerable?
“It is laughable to think that this is the Government that promised child welfare would be top of its agenda. In 2013 a total of 20 families were becoming homeless in Dublin every month – in the last few months this more than tripled to over 60 families becoming homeless every month. There are currently 10 homeless families for every 100,000 people Ireland. This compares to 3 homeless families for every 100,000 people in England.
“It is shameful that Tusla does not have statutory responsibility for putting in place special care plans for all families and children being housed in emergency accommodation. What is the point of a Child and Family Agency that does not support the most vulnerable children and families in the State?
“Tusla should be taking a lead, front-line role in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. I am calling on the Minister to immediately mandate Tusla to coordinate and integrate all social services for these vulnerable families. The State must take a role in reducing the long term damage to these children’s health and development.”