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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Homeless children feel 'shame and embarrassment' at school - Tusla

Homeless children feel 'shame and embarrassment' at school (Stock photo)
Homeless children feel 'shame and embarrassment' at school (Stock photo)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Children who are homeless experience disruption to relationships with family and friends and feel "shame and embarrassment" at school, TDs and Senators have been told.

Jim Gibson, the chief operations officer of the child and family agency Tusla, told the Oireachtas Children’s Committee that homelessness is “devastating and unacceptable” reality for many families in Ireland and “deprives children of their most basic rights, opportunities, and things that many of us take for granted”.

He said homeless children face problems with attending school, struggle with homework and have feelings of "shame and embarrassment" among their peers. Mr Gibson cited a recent Children’s Ombudsman report which outlined the problems facing children who are in emergency accommodation, such as hotels and family hubs.

The most recent figures show that of the over 10,000 people recorded as being homeless in Ireland almost 4,000 of them are children. “Children who are homeless experience disruption in their lives which results in a loss of their established relationships with friends, family and community,” Mr Gibson told the committee.

“Another essential aspect of children’s development is education. Children who are homeless experience considerable challenges in remaining in education. School attendance and school performance is impacted. Children often arrive at school tired and for many the completion of homework is problematic. Many travel longer distances.”

He said the Ombudsman’s report had recorded “feelings of shame and embarrassment which impacts on their ability to form relationships in the school place.”

Among the various supports Túsla provides to homeless families with children Mr Gibson said that it had appointed a liaison officer as a point of contact with the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and local authorities. This officer visits family hubs and hotels to ensure they are compliant with statutory guidelines to protect children.

The Department of Children told the committee that the long-term solution to the homeless crisis is to increase the supply of homes. This view was echoed by the Department of Housing which defended the use of family hubs. However officials acknowledged that the hubs, which have faced criticism from housing and homelessness bodies, are a short-term solution to the crisis and are not intended for long-term use.

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