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Ombudsman for Children warns of long term impact of homelessness on children


Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children

“I was shocked but unfortunately not surprised today to learn that more than 800 of the children treated at Temple Street Children’s Hospital Emergency Department in 2018 were homeless. We are experiencing a crisis of epic proportions with 3,811 children homeless in November 2018.

“For some time I have been highlighting my concern and outrage at the ever increasing number of children living in homeless accommodation, and I have warned that there will be a significant long term impact on both the physical and mental health of the children involved.

“The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is currently undertaking a consultation with children and young people living in family hubs asking them about their experiences. The outcome of this consultation will be published in the coming months but it is clear that homelessness and living in an unstable environment is having an extremely negative impact on many young people. Cases of autism, developmental delays, emotional attachment issues, self-harm and accidental injury have all been reported to us.  We are talking directly to children as young as 5 years of age and they are able to tell us the impact that living in one room with their whole family is having on them.

“Children and parents we met told us that infection control in family hubs is a real issue with viruses constantly passing around. Parents, who don’t have access to a personal fridge, are hanging antibiotics out windows to ensure they remain cold and are effective for their children. These are the lengths parents are going to.

“According to today’s figures 85% of children presented with issues like abdominal pain, high temperatures, chest infections, asthma, seizures and vomiting – conditions where children should be discharged home to their own bed to get better, not to a room where they may be sharing a bed with their brother, sister or parent.

“The 23% presenting with other issues including trauma or self-harm should have the full attention of their parents and carers, not the best that can be offered by an already stressed and under pressure parent who is living day to day trying to keep a roof of some kind over their head.

“I would like to commend Temple Street Children’s Hospital for collating this data and highlighting the direct consequences that living in homeless accommodation is having on children and young people. I would encourage the other children’s hospitals to do the same so we can see the full picture.

“More needs to be done to support children and their families who are going through this traumatic experience. Houses need to be built and accommodation where children are staying must be at a sufficient standard, but specific effort and resources must also be directed towards supporting these children who are stuck in a situation totally out of their control. I fear that the legacy of this crisis will be seen for many years to come.”