A scheme to provide free childcare for under fives living in emergency accommodation is to be expanded.
Fifty-two families have been availing of the service since it was initiated in Dublin last year but Children's Minister Katherine Zappone has a significant portion of the €8.25m allocated still at her disposal. As a result, the scheme is to be extended to a number of counties including Cork, Cavan, Donegal, Kildare, Kilkenny, Leitrim, Offaly, Wicklow and Clare.
Under the arrangement each child is entitled to 25 hours of free childcare a week and a daily meal, available for 50 weeks of the year. An information campaign is under way to alert families to the entitlement.
Separately, Focus Ireland warned of a deepening youth homelessness crisis as figures show the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are homeless has shot up 78pc in the last three years.
Figures from the Department of Housing show 776 young people were homeless and in emergency accommodation in the week of February 20-26, 2017.
This was an 78pc increase from April 2014, which was 436. The most recent figures show young people aged 18-24 now make up some 10pc of the record number of 7,421 people who are homeless in Ireland.