Monday 20 November 2017

One in eight families sending children to particular primary school are homeless - ESRI

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

One in eight families sending their children to a particular primary school are homeless, according to a shocking new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) today.

The growing homelessness crisis is being seen first hand at a number of schools, according to the report.

One primary school principal told the ESRI that they had pupils “who were moving literally form family to family, with their own family, due to homeless, and sleeping in a car, coming from a van…and they own nothing”.

Another principal, also in an urban area, said 12pc – one in eight - of families with children in the school were homeless.

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 early school leaving.

The SCP supports about 36,000 pupils within the school system, and about 800 young people who are out of schools.

The report details how the recession has hit the living conditions of children in 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, authored by Emer Smyth, Joanne Banks,  Adele Whelan,  Merike Darmody and Selina McCoy.

And it notes that new issues are emerging. 

“Homeless was seen as becoming a feature in some school populations”.

While report states that the deteriorating economic circumstances of families is likely to have impacted on their need for support, funding for the SCP has been cut by one third in recent years.

The SCP was not excluded from cuts in the era of austerity, and while,  in 2008 it was funded to the tune of €33m, this year that figure was down to below €25m.

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

Welcoming the ESRI , Gordon Jeyes, chief executive of the child and family agency, said the report highlighted an excellent practice being implemented under SCP, but that the programme lacked coherence and strong governance.

“Reform of the programme is overdue. 

"We need an integrated structure.

"In 2009, it was agreed that an integrated approach to educational welfare should be adopted; this involves closer links between home school community liaison, school completion and educational welfare. 

"Each of these strands is now under Tusla’s remit and for the first time, we are in a position to incorporate educational welfare into the child welfare system." 

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