Belfast Telegraph

Government accused of denying children development due to homeless crisis

The accusation was made by Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty.

Pearse Doherty and Simon Coveney (Liam McBurney/PA)
Pearse Doherty and Simon Coveney (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

The Government has been accused of denying parents the joys of their children’s early years due to the homeless crisis.

The Dail saw a heated debate on Thursday during Leaders’ Questions when Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty called on Tanaiste Simon Coveney to explain to families why they are homeless if the government’s plans are working.

Mr Doherty said: “It’s time that you actually got the point your plan is not working, and no matter how much spin and statistics you put out there, it doesn’t wash.

We have heard from the front line about children who cannot crawl, toddlers who cannot walk Pearse Doherty

“The worst case of all of this here is the damage that we are doing, as a society, to these children.

“We have heard from the front line about children who cannot crawl, toddlers who cannot walk.

“I’m a father, as are you, one of the best experiences ever was standing there and looking at your child taking the first steps.

“Under your Government, you’re denying these children, to be able to develop and milestones that normal children to be able to achieve.

“Why? Because they are in cramped accommodation and hotel rooms and B&Bs and hubs, and some of them are in there for four years, so take to your feet and tell those children, tell those parents, that your plan is working – but it’s not.

“Tell the renters paying 2,000 euro that your plan is working, it is not, you need to get that into your head.

“You need to invest appropriately and you need to introduce a rent freeze so that we stop this craziness of landlords increasing rent and putting families into homelessness.”

Mr Doherty was referring to a recent report that some homeless children have difficulty swallowing and chewing food because of their poor diet in emergency accommodation.

Charity Novas said it noticed the problem occurring in children who had lived for prolonged periods in hotel rooms with no access to cooking facilities.

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People take part in an anti-homelessness demonstration (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Coveney rejected Mr Doherty’s claims, and said the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland plan is working.

He said: “As usual Sinn Fein are good at vocalising the pressures that result from a crisis, but as usual they don’t have any solutions.

“If we introduced a rent freeze tomorrow.

“It wouldn’t get a single child out of a family, or hotel.

“The majority in this house do not support a rent freeze, because we believe it will undermine the core issue, which is the lack of supply.

“Until we increase the supply of housing stock in all sectors, including affordable rental and cost rental, which is what we’re doing, we’re not going to see reductions in the price of rental, which is what we actually want to do.

“We can try and actually swim against the tide and force a rent freeze on a stock that isn’t sufficient, in terms of value, or we can try to get more houses built across all 10 years.

“So that actually renters have choice where they want to rent, and people who want to purchase a house can afford to do it.”

The homeless crisis continues to be a headache for the Government, with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy facing his second no confidence motion while in the role next week.

The average rent in Ireland is 8% higher than last year, and homelessness has gone up 354% since 2014.

According to Government figures, 10,397 people, including 3,873 children, are homeless.

PA

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