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 Header Item Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children (Continued)
 Header Item Housing Issues

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone] In the case of unaccompanied minors who come through the former Calais route or those coming through other routes, the older they are the better it is for them to have an additional assessment in terms of residential settings. Such a setting may be supported lodgings because they are older, more independent and look for that kind of support which is provided by Tusla. If people are interested in fostering unaccompanied minors, having heard they are coming to Ireland, particular training is available for that. We would welcome people identifying their interest in that.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I want to acknowledge the progress that has been made. There were some significant cases of reunification outlined in the previous reply. I also want to acknowledge improvements. At the age of 18, at a time when they could have been in the middle of doing their leaving certificate course in a school in Dublin, young people were moved outside of Dublin.

The Minister opened the YPAR conference and met many young unaccompanied minors and other young people. Their status is a major issue because it will determine whether they can go on to third level, can work, etc. Some are in a state of limbo. They said they feel like ghosts because they do not have the correct status. They have been able to get through primary and secondary level education, but because of their starters third level is not an option. Even those who have funding for PLC courses develop skills but cannot work. I am not referring to those in direct provision alone; rather, I am also referring to other unaccompanied minors the Minister met. We have to address the issue of status.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone In terms of ensuring we provide the kind of security and base out of which they can continue to live in this country and look for education, training and employment opportunities, I agree with the Deputy. I would be happy to meet her and others in the community to examine these issues.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the issue of status is not something for which I am directly responsible. On reaching the age of 18, many decide to stay with their foster families and Tusla supports that in all sorts of different ways. If they decide to move on, we are then in the arena of aftercare plans which we discussed earlier in terms of whether individual plans are in place. Tusla makes every effort to ensure there is engagement and support for young people as they move beyond 18 years of age. As I said, the issue of status lays the foundations for security and opportunities and entitlements. I appreciate they are issues and would be happy to continue to discuss them.

Housing Issues

 50. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone her views on the effects that the housing crisis is having on children in view of the fact that parents in emergency and transitional accommodation are by their very nature in a precarious position regarding settling their children's education and after-school activities and the need for additional resources for those children.  [6758/17]

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan This question refers to children who are living with their parents in emergency or transitional accommodation, which we can all recognise is a very precarious position in terms of children's education and other school activities, and the need for additional resources for those children.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone I am very conscious of the effects of the housing crisis on children when they and their families are in emergency accommodation. As part of a whole-of-Government approach to homelessness, I am committed to helping families by supporting implementation of Rebuilding Ireland action plan. It acknowledges that any medium to long-term period living in a hotel seriously affects normal family life and is particularly detrimental to children. While the concerted efforts and actions outlined in the action plan will result in families moving on from hotels more quickly, my Department, together with Tusla, is working to support parents and children in order to minimise, as much as possible, the impacts of living in emergency and transitional accommodation.

We have commenced the roll-out of a special provision under the current community child care subvention programme, which will provide access to free child care, including a daily meal, for homeless children aged 0 to 5 years, inclusive. A flat rate of €110 per week, for part-time child care over five days per week is being paid for each eligible child. Over 50 child care services have applied to be part of this programme in the Dublin region and we are examining mechanisms to make the subvention available outside of Dublin.

In recognition of the difficulties associated with homelessness and school attendance, the educational welfare office offers a range of supports. In DEIS schools where there is a home school community liaison co-ordinator on the school staff, that co-ordinator proactively engages with parents who are experiencing homelessness. The co-ordinator also supports families to access any other supports that can be of assistance to the family while they are homeless.

Children experiencing homelessness who are at risk of early school leaving are also targeted by the school completion programme. A number of supports are being worked on.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan It is good to hear some positive initiatives. I had a fear, given that many issues were taking up the attention of the Minister and the House, that housing and homelessness, in particular how they affect vulnerable young people living in such situations, would get lost along the way. We are shoring up problems for the future because young people do not have access to proper cooked meals - a lot of fast food and takeaways are being eaten. There are issues regarding laundry, privacy, homework and after-school activities. Schools in my constituency are working to try to compensate for the fact that children are living in emergency accommodation.

  It is a difficult task, but there should be a timeframe regarding how long people stay in emergency accommodation, following which they are of absolute priority to get out of the accommodation. Is the Minister having discussions with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Simon Coveney, on this?

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone On the last question Deputy O'Sullivan raised, I fully agree with her on the amount of time that children ought to be with their families in that context. I have held discussions with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and some of his advisers, along with my advisers. I have also raised questions and conducted investigations in the context of my constituency, Dublin South West, and the local authority's provisions for homeless families and their children. A transitional housing model is being developed that provides wonderful accommodation in a setting that is like any other rental setting for families and which provides them with some security to enable them to move on. I am aware of the detrimental impact of emergency accommodation and the need for a focus on timeframes. We need to be more ambitious than we have been to date.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I know about the roll-out of Leap cards, but some people have difficulty accessing them, which may need to be examined. Children also face problems depending on where their homeless accommodation is located. It could be a significant distance from the schools which they have been attending this, which causes more disruption.

Children are living in appalling private rented accommodation. Some of the homeless and emergency accommodation is better than some of the private rented accommodation I have seen. Families are at the mercy of landlords. I acknowledge there are good progressive landlords but, unfortunately, I am seeing the other kind. As we speak, some are trying to increase rents, which will increase the number of evictions and create more stress for homeless services.

Deputy Katherine Zappone: Information on Katherine Zappone Zoom on Katherine Zappone On the issue of transport in the context of emergency accommodation, as the Deputy is aware I have been committed to trying to mitigate the impact of that since taking up office. It is important that children are able to travel between their new place of residence, including emergency accommodation, to the schools they attend. The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and Dublin City Council are working with the National Transport Authority to develop and implement the scheme.

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