There have been calls at a government committee to offer free transport cards for homeless families to alleviate social isolation.
The Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs discussed the effect of homelessness on children on Tuesday, where it was put by Sinn Fein’s Denise Mitchell that a Leap card could have a massive benefit to the over 3,700 Irish children in homeless accommodation.
Speaking to representatives from the Department of Housing, Tusla and the Department of Children, Ms Mitchell said the committee had “been banging our heads against a brick wall” over the issue.
She recalled that during a previous committee with homeless charity Focus Ireland, one of the main issues that arose were difficulties for families in the summer period, where children have no school, but are living in homeless family hubs or hotels, adding to feelings of social isolation and adverse mental health.
Children and young people cannot have visitors over to the hubs, they often lack outdoor play spaces and hubs may be located quite a distance away from where school friends are.
“What have you done to help families through these difficulties?” she said.
“They have asked consistently for the Leap card to be made available to children so they can still participate in activities, and travel to see friends and family members.”
She noted that free travel has been implemented for all children across Ireland in July.
“Children who are homeless will not have free travel in August, September, October, can you sort this out?
“Can we make one small thing available for these children?”
Department of Housing representative David Kelly said it could be considered “in light of available funding” but noted there were considerable funding pressures.
Ms Mitchell replied: “That’s disappointing as that’s not what the minister said from the floor last week, it seems the department and the minister are giving two different answers.
“I’m not contradicting the minister, and if he is considering it, but I’m not in position to commit funding to it,” Mr Kelly said.
A recent report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO): No Place Like Home, which detailed the views of 80 children living in family hubs in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, found that children expressed feelings of sadness, confusion and anger about living in homeless accommodation.
Many parents raised concerns about their children’s development, due to how much space they had to learn to crawl and walk, and reported children felt confined in the small space.
The official number of homeless people in Ireland in May stood at 10,253, including 6,504 adults and 3,749 children.
It has been acknowledged by the government that the country is in a state of crisis over the issue.