Saturday 24 August 2019

Plan for child actors to play homeless children at launch sparks controversy

Row erupts as child actors set to tell story of life in family hubs

(stock photo of a homeless person)
(stock photo of a homeless person)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The Dublin Regional Homelessness Executive (DRHE) has accused the Children's Ombudsman of "sensationalising" the plight of people living in family hubs ahead of the launch of a major report.

DRHE director Eileen Gleeson wrote to Dr Niall Muldoon, of the Ombudsman for Children's Office, to complain about the launch of the No Place Like Home project which takes place this week.

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The event will involve child actors playing the role of homeless children living in family hubs, which the Government introduced to help alleviate the pressure on social housing caused by the homelessness crisis.

In her letter, Ms Gleeson was critical of Mr Muldoon's proposal to stage an "interactive experience" of life in a family hub. She said the Ombudsman was "sensationalising what is an emotive subject".

The No Place Like Home event follows a lengthy consultation involving both the DRHE and the Children's Ombudsman. Parents and children living in the emergency housing were interviewed as part of the project.

The child actors will relay the stories told to staff from the Children's Ombudsman during the consultation. The event takes place on Thursday in Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, Dr Muldoon defended his decision to stage the experience of homeless children using actors as part of the event.

"As part of the launch of No Place Like Home, children's writings and drawings will be displayed, and the words of the children who took part in the consultation will be spoken by actors," he said.

"All of the content of this interactive launch will come directly from the report and the identities of the children will be protected.

"This consultation is the first time that we have heard directly from children living in family hubs.

"It is my statutory obligation to ensure children's voices are heard and their views are considered. This report is designed to ensure the voices of this cohort of children are heard by all."

A DRHE spokesperson said it would not be commenting on Ms Gleeson's letter to Dr Muldoon.

Family hubs were introduced by former housing minister and current Tanaiste Simon Coveney, who pledged to remove homeless families from hotels and B&Bs by July 1, 2017.

However, he was forced to admit this was not achievable and the Government has yet to achieve the objective almost two years later.

In March, the number of children sleeping in hotel rooms and family hubs reached 3,784.

Hubs are considered emergency accommodation but are designed to be more familyfriendly than hotels or B&Bs.

They generally include play areas for children and cooking and laundry facilities for families. However, they are not a long-term solution for anyone struggling to find accommodation.

There are around 20 family hubs in Dublin, overseen by charities and private businesses in co-operation with the DRHE.

Sunday Independent

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