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Monday 24 July 2017

Homeless children try to hide fact from friends

Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon. Photo: Maxwellphotography.ie
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon. Photo: Maxwellphotography.ie

Ryan Nugent

Homeless children are going out of their way to prevent their friends finding out they are living in emergency accommodation, according to the Children's Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Dr Niall Muldoon released the watchdog's annual report, which found that new complaints to his office have increased by 47pc in the past six years.

Fresh reports jumped from 1,144 in 2010 to 1,682 last year.

Almost half of these complaints were in relation to education, most of which were to do with bullying at schools.

Dr Muldoon said that some schools are not handling issues of bullying well enough.

While issues of housing and living conditions only accounted for 5pc of the total complaints, Dr Muldoon feels there is a far higher proportion in reality.

Read more: Rights of homeless children with disabilities 'not always prioritised' - Ombudsman for Children

He said the current living conditions for more than 2,000 homeless children are causing psychological damage.

"It's a huge difficulty, because children like that, because self esteem is a huge thing for children," Dr Muldoon said.

"A lot of them will pretend they're not homeless. They might travel certain distances to get on the buses they used to get on.

"A lot of the schools are very cute as well and they're working with children, saying 'we'll help you out, come in early we'll get you breakfast, we can help with the homework' so people engaged with this area are doing everything they can to help children."

The Ombudsman said that while he saw the use of 'family hubs' replacing hotels as temporary accommodation, it should not be for more than six months.

"Family hubs allow parents and children a little bit of autonomy, a little bit of privacy and security but it's got to be a stepping stone," he said.

"The hope is that they move on within a six-month period, that's my understanding of it and that would be appropriate."

Irish Independent

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