Thursday 27 October 2016

Kenny under pressure over accommodation for homeless

Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30

Warning to Government: ISPCC boss Grainia Long
Warning to Government: ISPCC boss Grainia Long

Child protection groups are demanding inspections of emergency accommodation offered to homeless families.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the Coalition's record on housing amid a furore over the standard of emergency accommodation.

Mr Kenny came under fire in the wake of the television programme 'My Homeless Family' aired on RTÉ on Monday.

The Government is now under pressure to send in child welfare officials to inspect the housing offered to homeless families.

The Children's Rights Alliance wants a child protection and welfare audit conducted on all emergency accommodation.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) also called for the introduction of child protection audits within emergency accommodation to review physical and management standards for their impact on child safety.

The ISPCC said it had repeatedly warned about the hazards of emergency accommodation.

The organisation's chief executive, Grainia Long, said it had regularly called for action to reassure the public and parents that children living in B&B accommodation are safe.

"Emergency accommodation is unacceptable for long periods, and it is the State's responsibility to ensure that when they are placed in B&Bs that those placements do not place children at risk," she said.

The ISPCC also argued that child protection audits would examine hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation, and would also ensure management standards.

The Taoiseach said he believed people in emergency accommodation had their complaints heard.

"Obviously, the stories of Emily, Ryan, Preston and Parker are not the kind of stories you want to see on television or indeed hear about," he said.

"This is an issue which is not acceptable and I commend the people who spoke out,'' he added.

"A total of 123 complaints were received about emergency accommodation. I understand that all of these complaints were dealt with appropriately," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said the housing crisis followed the total collapse of the construction sector, which was taking the longest to get back on its feet.

Mr Kenny ruled out increasing rent supplement to help alleviate homelessness.

"The real problem is the supply of houses and increasing rent supplement only exacerbates the pressure on the existing housing stock,'' he said.

Mr Kenny said the next stage in addressing the issue was to have local councils, who had already been given money, instructions and targets, to get on with the supply of social housing.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the documentary was made possible by the bravery, courage and dignity of the families who participated.

"They revealed with great courage and dignity the depressing and very dangerous nature and reality of homelessness Ireland,'' he said.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said it was wrong to say the Government was addressing the housing situation as a priority. He said that even in a straitened economy the Government had choices - and the Taoiseach chose to invest in collapsed banks over housing.

Mr Adams said homelessness increased by 93pc in 2015 - a de facto doubling of the rate. At the same time, just 28 local authority houses were built.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said NAMA would provide 2,000 social houses out of 20,000.

"That is a ratio of nine-to-one and the major problem is the lack of social houses being built by local councils."

Irish Independent

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