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Consensus finally emerging on actions needed to address child homelessness – Ombudsman for Children

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, has expressed his hope that the actions identified in two reports focused on child homelessness which were published today (Thursday), will be pursued across all parties.

The Impact of Homelessness on Children published by the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, and the report on Family and Child Homelessness published by the Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government outline a range of actions that need to be taken to respond effectively to homelessness among children and their families.

Both of these reports recognise and support recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office No Place Like Home report published in April of this year.

Both reports have recommended that:

  • The right to housing in the Constitution should be examined, as a matter of priority
  • The Housing Act 1988 should be amended to ensure that appropriate accommodation and supports are provided to homeless families with children
  • Data collection and disaggregation must be improved
  • Independent, statutory inspections of homelessness services should be in place
  • An independent, formal evaluation of the suitability of family emergency accommodation, including family hubs as an approach to providing emergency temporary accommodation, should be undertaken
  • Standards for family hubs need to be implemented
  • Practical supports, including child support workers, need to be available to children and families in emergency accommodation.

Commenting on the two reports published today, Niall said:

“The most recent data on family homelessness indicates that 3,873 children in 1,756 families were in local authority managed emergency accommodation during the week of 23rd to 29th September.

“In No Place Like Home we spoke to children and parents living in family hubs. They shared their experiences with us and they were clear on the very damaging impact that homelessness has on the lives of children and families, as well as on their sense of dignity and self-worth.”

Dr Karen McAuley, OCO Head of Policy who attended the launch today added:

“The reports published today are the work of two cross-party Joint Committees. Viewed individually and together, these reports demonstrate that consensus is emerging about the changes in law, policy, procedure and practice needed to address child and family homelessness, and to mitigate the injurious effects of homelessness on children.

“This consensus and the clarity it provides are encouraging: agreement on what actions are needed is a vital prerequisite to implementing short, medium and longer term measures to address child and family homelessness effectively.”

The Ombudsman concluded:

“I trust that the relevant authorities responsible for addressing child and family homelessness will give these two reports their immediate attention and serious consideration, and that all parties and Independents will put their energies into ensuring that the actions identified are pursued.”