Saturday 24 March 2018

Child expert warns homeless children being deprived of human rights

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Stock photo
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Children forced to live in emergency accommodation are being deprived of their human rights, a Government appointed child expert has warned.

Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, was speaking at the launch of Cope Galway’s 2016 Annual Report this morning.

It found that the level of child homelessness in Galway had risen by 40pc in the past year with 512 children experiencing homelessness last year.

Nationally 3,000 children are currently homeless.

Describing the level of child homelessness as a “matter of profound concern” Dr Shannon said lengthy stays in emergency accommodation could have serious implications.

Read More: 'It worries my mum, so it worries me' – Declan (9) scared of becoming homeless and not having school to go to next week

Calling on the Government to take greater action, Dr Shannon said investing money now in the crisis would save the State 'significant monies" in the long run by warding off problems in the future.

He said he wanted the Government to redouble its efforts warning that the issue of homelessness had been addressed solely as an adult problem until now.

“Children aren’t passive spectators. They are deeply affected. I believe children’s human rights are being affected by placing them in emergency accommodation.

“This is something that is of concern because childhood is for a limited time and if a child’s right to fully develop is interrupted by homelessness, that has consequences into the future. So we certainly need to redouble our efforts,” he said.

He pointed out that such children did not have the same opportunities from an education perspective and warned that the experience could impact on their mental health in the future and could also lead to repeated cycles of homelessness into adulthood.

“The budget is eight days away. What I’m saying is there needs to be an initiative where we focus on those children in emergency accommodation because implications for those children are far more stark than they are for adults,” he said.

“If you live in a hotel bedroom for a lengthy period of time that has to have implications, and not just implications for education but also mental health. That would be the real concern, that not only will some of these children end up homeless but it may have implications for their own mental health and that is going to be a drain on resources into the future. So investing money now in the homeless crisis and the 3,000 children who are currently in emergency accommodation will actually save the State significant monies in the long run because of the fact that we’re warding off problems for the future,” he added.

The charity revealed a 27pc increase in the numbers of families seeking assistance due to homelessness or the risk of homelessness, and a disturbing 39pc increase in the numbers of children experiencing homelessness in Galway.

COPE Galway CEO Jacquie Horan urged the people of Galway for their support to help address the accommodation needs of families who become homeless.

“We are appealing to people who have flats, apartments or houses that are already or are due to become vacant; to make them available to rent to families through COPE Galway. I believe that in Galway we can all work together to provide more suitable emergency accommodation for families, who are unfortunately remaining homeless for extended periods of time, so as to minimise the disruption that homelessness causes to their lives”.

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