Number of children in emergency accommodation up 7% from August to September

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There was a 7 percent increase in the number of children living in emergency accommodation between August and September of this year, according to the Barnardos children’s charity.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Children, Barnardos Executive Director Suzanne Connolly described the toll of disadvantages faced by children living in poverty, including damage to physical and mental health; negative impacts on well-being and future development; school underperformance and social exclusion.

Ms Connolly said living in poverty is associated with reduced chances in life and increases the likelihood of poverty in adulthood. She told the Committee that reducing and ultimately eliminating child poverty “should be a fundamental goal and commitment of the government”.

She described a recent “back-to-school survey” of nearly 1,500 parents, which showed that 20 percent of respondents had to take out some form of loan to cover these costs.

Barnardos’ services, she said, seek to intervene to improve the prospects of children and parents living in poverty by providing practical support for immediate needs, from furniture to food, or by partnering with energy suppliers to try to reduce payments.

Ms Connolly said that to tackle child poverty, the government should:

* Reduce the number of homeless children by limiting the time they can spend in emergency accommodation to six months.

* Develop the hot school lunch program.

* Provide free education to all children, including free textbooks, ending voluntary contributions and tackling the high cost of uniforms.

* Improve social assistance for single parents, whose children are at increased risk of poverty.

* Increase access to free childcare services for low-income families.

Dr Maria O’Dwyer, national coordinator of the Prevention and Early Intervention Network, told the international committee that in addition to Irish research, government policy and the experience of practitioners in the field “everything points to clearly the social as well as the economic benefits of prioritizing prevention and early intervention ”.

However, she has said too often that our supports for children and families are “too little too late”.

She said the Prevention and Early Intervention Network represented organizations and individuals focused on “the most effective ways to create a protective layer of support to prevent difficulties from arising in the first place” as well as providing support. as soon as possible when difficulties arise. .

She said the services were in increased demand, with anxiety in particular having a debilitating impact on many children and parents. Adverse childhood experiences (ACE), including the impact of poverty, lead to serious physical and mental health issues throughout a person’s life, she said.

Children should not have to wait to access essential services for their development, she said.

However, MP Mark Ward told the Committee that he and other members of the public regularly forward to you responses from service providers that some children have to wait four years for help, such as speech and language aids.

Pat Dennigan, CEO of Focus Ireland, said the problem of child poverty is deeply linked to people with complex support needs, young adults and families.

He said that while the causes of homelessness are complex, recent in-depth analysis found that “the experience of child poverty very often predates and is a strong predictor of homelessness in adulthood. “.

“Every day, Focus Ireland services observe the same thing,” he said.


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