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Written Answers - Homeless Persons

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 531.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  the information that is available to her Department on the number of children, persons under the age of 18 years, who are currently homeless; the policy in place to tackle this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16684/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The HSE compiles monthly performance reports which provide an overall analysis of key performance data from finance, HR, hospital and primary and community services. In recognition of the need for improved information regarding youth homelessness/children under 18 years of age, the HSE has commenced reporting on a number of new performance indicators in 2011. The following information as at the end of December 2011 is currently being collated by the HSE and will [926]be available shortly; number of children placed in youth homeless centres for more than 4 consecutive nights or more than ten separate nights over a year; number of children in care placed in a specified youth homeless centre; number of referrals made to the Emergency Out of Hours Place of Safety Service, and; number of children placed with the Emergency Out of Hours Place of Safety Service.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive informed the HSE that they did not find any child under 18 sleeping rough in Dublin during the “Sleeping Rough” head count in November 2011. I believe that the improved qualitative nature of the information now being provided will greatly assist development of policy in this area and I will arrange for the data in relation to 2011 to be forwarded to the deputy as soon as it is available.

The definition of youth homelessness includes children that fall into three groups; (i) children who mainly reside with their families but due to an emergency, need care and accommodation immediately, (ii) children and young people who are defined as at risk of homelessness i.e. who may be staying with different friends and acquaintances, who do not have a stable base and (iii) children and young people who are found to be “sleeping rough”.

Since the National Youth Homelessness Strategy was developed in 2001, a number of different schemes have been put in place to address the different needs of these groups. (i) A standardised system is in place whereby Gardaí can access an appropriate place of safety for children found to be at risk out of hours under Section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. The service is designed to ensure that children presenting as “at risk” outside of normal working hours are provided with an appropriate emergency place of safety, a foster care placement, thereby reducing or eliminating social admissions of children in an acute hospital setting. I an informed by the HSE that 532 nights accommodation were supplied by the Emergency Out of Hours Placement Service up to the end of December 2011. (ii) The HSE provides and funds services to identify young people and prevent them progressing into homelessness. (iii) Hostels are provided for short term support for young people at risk of sleeping rough. In addition, a pilot out-of-hours social work service is being tested in two locations as provided for in the Implementation Plan published following the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

My Department met with service providers engaged in addressing the problem of youth homelessness last summer . The purpose of this workshop was to assess and review the current demand for services, the progress made to date under the Youth Homelessness Strategy 2001 and the need to address any outstanding service deficits. This workshop was very beneficial in getting the views of stakeholders. Arising out of the priorities identified on the day, my Department has engaged the Centre for Effective Services (CES) to undertake a high level review of the implementation of the 2001 strategy. The purpose of the review is to establish the extent that the strategy has been successful, to identify blockages and challenges to its implementation in respect of any outstanding actions and to make recommendations for future action. Consultations will be held with the relevant service providers, non-Government agencies and young people as part of this process. It is envisaged that this review will be completed over the coming months. This review will inform the development of a framework to address youth homelessness over the next 5 years.

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