Children living in emergency accommodation due to the homelessness crisis were found to be “nutritionally deficient” and “falling asleep” at school desks, according to a report by a legal charity.
The report by the Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) highlighted the impact of homelessness and poor short and long term accommodation on children’s physical and mental health.
It was also damning of the impact of family hub accommodation on young children.
The report highlighted a corrosive “sense of stigma and hopelessness” felt by children in one family assessed by a social worker. Rules set by the hub discouraged the children from playing with others there or using communal areas.
The children also found it hard to make friends at school as they feared being judged or excluded.
The independent law centre provides free legal advice and representation in the areas of social housing and related social welfare law to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It has assisted nearly 800 families since the start of 2018.
The publication of its ‘Report on Lived Experiences of Homeless Families’ comes just days after Government data revealed record levels of homelessness.
Some 10,514 people were homeless in Ireland in October, including 3,826 children.
The report highlighted the situation of one family of six, including four young children, who were placed in an isolated B&B a substantial distance from educational and health supports.
A medical report provided to their local authority stated the school-going children had “spent the past six months getting up at 5am to go to school, [were] falling asleep at their desks and are becoming nutritionally deficient due to lack of cooking facilities”.
The report called for the cessation of the use of one night only homeless accommodation for homeless families and for local authorities to cease relying on commercial hotels and B&Bs as a form of emergency provision.
It also called for an upper time limit to be placed on the period a family can stay in hotel or B&B emergency accommodation.
It said a “best interests of the child” consideration should also be introduced for local authorities when providing homeless accommodation and supports for families.
MLRC managing solicitor Rebecca Keatinge said cases included in the report were “distressing and painful”, but she believed the majority of its recommendations were achievable and could be implemented quickly.