Thursday 22 March 2018

Homeless children 'forced to eat takeaway food on the floor' in emergency accommodation report finds

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Claire Foz

Homeless children are living off takeaways and eating on their beds or the floor according to a new report by Focus Ireland.

The Food Access and Nutritional Health of Families in Emergency Accommodation report highlights how children living in emergency accommodation are eating convenience food like biscuits, crisps and chips, as their families do not have access to proper cooking facilities.

According to Dr Michelle Share of NUIG, who undertook the report on behalf of the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, it shows the negative impact that living in emergency accommodation is having on children and the "loss of dignity" they face.

"It’s not just about food and nutrition. Families have to rely on takeaways and convenience foods. It makes it harder for children to develop good eating habits as they have to eat in socially unacceptable circumstances, like dining on the bed, or on the floor, lined up at a counter and sometimes even under CCTV surveillance," she said.

"They get used to dining in communal settings or with tourists - rather than as a family around their own table. All of this means a loss of dignity. On a practical level it can inhibit other important parts of children’s lives such as free play and completing homework.”

Focus Ireland are calling for families to not have to spend more than six months in emergency accommodation and that all accommodation must provide a kitchen table in a private space for families in order to prevent further health deterioration. 

Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland, Mike Allen, said the report shows the "daily struggle" that 1,000 families in emergency accommodation encounter.

“The report underlined the fact that the longer the stays in emergency accommodation, the more difficult it can be for families to move on from homelessness to independent living."

 "We are repeating our call for a dedicated sub-strategy to address family homelessness that includes a target of supporting all families out of homelessness within six months and also providing a range of supports to avert the potentially devastating effects on the children involved."

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