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Raise the Roof - Housing Protest earlier this year. Sam Boal

Families should no longer be provided with one-night emergency accommodation, committee will recommend

Experts will instead suggest that stable placements in suitable temporary accommodation for families be provided.

THE PROVISION OF one-night only emergency accommodation to families and children should be ceased, an Oireachtas Committee is set to recommend later today. 

The Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government is due to meet today at 12pm in the Oireachtas. It is understood the committee will recommend a number of amendments to the Housing Act 1988, including to cease the provision of one-night emergency accommodation to people. 

One-night housing is understood, the committee will say, to be one of the most detrimental forms of emergency accommodation. Experts will instead recommend that stable placements in suitable temporary accommodation for families be provided.

People staying in one-night accommodation in general cannot access their rooms until 8pm at night and must leave again by 9.30am. This results in families having no secure places to stay during the day, and also with no facilities for washing clothes or cooking food. They also face difficulties registering their children for school or accessing healthcare as they have no fixed address. 

It is understood the report on the committee meeting says homelessness is “one of the most pressing issues” in Irish society. 

The committee is also due to recommend:

  • Practical support such as child support workers made available in all emergency accommodation to each family and child within one week of entering emergency accommodation.
  • Expanding the remit of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to allow it conduct independent inspections and monitor homeless services.
  • A Constitutional right to housing.
  • Further need for support workers in emergency accommodation.
  • Legislation to place upper time limits on the length of time a family can stay in emergency accommodation.
  • To amend the 1988 Housing Act to impose a statutory duty on housing authorities to provide homeless accommodation to people.

Representatives from Focus Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Office of the Ombudsman for Children and the Mercy Law Resource Centre will all address the committee later today.

Focus Ireland will say that only 9% of the children on their caseload have a child support worker.

Focus Ireland and the Ombudsman for Children’s Office are set to advise against setting up a new inspection body to avoid institutionalising the thinking around homelessness and to avoid the assumption that it will become a permanent fixture in Irish society. They will instead recommend an independent body to carry out the inspections. 

There are 1,756 homeless families with 3,873 homeless children living in Ireland, according to Department of Housing figures from September 2019. 

Reducing homelessness

Many of the recent causes of homelessness around the country are believed to be caused by an inability to secure accommodation in the privately rented sector, the committee will hear. 

The committee is set to say it would like to see measures put in place to mitigate and reduce the effects of homelessness on families and children and bring a system change to prevent this situation happening again in the future.

The Housing Act 1988 should also be amended to put a statutory duty on housing authorities to regard the best interests of the child as most important and to regard the needs of the family, the committee will recommend. 

These suggestions have been welcomed by the network of homeless charities the Simon Communities who emphasised the need for a right to housing. 

“While we recognise that this will not be the single solution to ending our housing crisis, we firmly believe that constitutional change will increase the scope of actions that the Oireachtas can take to address this crisis,” national spokesperson for the Simon Communities Wayne Stanley said in a statement. 

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