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Friday 23 February 2018

12pc of families with children at one urban school are homeless

Children's Minister James Reilly
Children's Minister James Reilly
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The homelessness crisis is a growing problem in a number of schools, according to a new report.

One in eight families (12.5pc) sending children to one medium-sized urban primary school is homeless, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found.

Another primary school principal, also in an urban area, told the ESRI that the school had pupils "who were moving literally from family to family, with their own family, due to homelessness, and sleeping in a car, coming from a van... and they own nothing".

The impact of homelessness on young pupils is one of the issues highlighted in an ESRI review of the School Completion Programme (SCP), which provides supports for children and young people at risk of leaving school early.

The SCP supports about 36,000 pupils in 470 primary schools, 224 second-level schools and about 800 young people who are out of school.

The report details how the recession has hit the living conditions of children attending schools in the Department of Education DEIS programme for disadvantaged communities, and their families very hard.

"Principals referred to the increased concentration of disadvantage and the complexity of issues faced by children and young people," states the report, which was authored by Emer Smyth, Joanne Banks, Adele Whelan, Merike Darmody and Selina McCoy.

It also notes that new issues are emerging, stating: "Homelessness was seen as becoming a feature in some school populations."

Ms Smyth said that the report highlighted the value of providing comprehensive school-based supports for disadvantaged children and young people.

But funding for the SCP has been cut by one-third in recent years, which meant reduced services particularly after school and during holidays. Such services are regarded as key in engaging children with schools.

The programme was not excluded from Budget cuts during the era of austerity. In 2008, it was funded to the tune of €33m, but this year that figure was down to below €25m.

The report also notes that schools in disadvantaged communities have suffered unduly through other changes, such as the removal of guidance counsellors and resources for Traveller students.

The review, undertaken for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, which now has responsibility for educational welfare programmes, makes a series of recommendations in relation to the future operation of the SCP.

Children's Minister James Reilly said the review was being considered and that there should be no diminution of funding for the programme in 2015.

Meanwhile, a housing conference heard that improving living standards for the elderly and promoting greater community involvement could deliver savings in the costs associated with caring for older people.

The number of people aged over 80 will increase by 400pc in the coming years and a group - including government departments, the HSE housing agencies and voluntary groups - said initiatives would have to be developed to deal with the greying population.

Irish Independent

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