Free travel and 'heritage cards' should be provided to homeless children through school-holidays, members of the Oireachtas committee for Children have said.
Heritage cards, allowing free access to OPW-managed heritage sites, are available to people with disabilities and their carers.
A number of speakers at the committee, which was discussing the impact of homelessness on children, called for these to be provided to children in emergency accommodation, and for children’s Leap cards - currently provided to these children during school months only- during holidays.
Sinn Féin TD Denise Mitchell TD, addressing David Kelly, principal officer on homelessness in the Department of Housing, said she had written to Minister Eoghan Murphy asking for children's Leap cards through the whole summer. They are available to all children for free during July.
“So these children can still participate in activities, can still travel to areas to visit friends, so they are not isolated and feeling alone. Children who are homeless will not have free travel in August. So can you knock your heads together and please sort this out? Children and young teenagers are sitting in hubs and hotels, away from friends.”
Mr Kelly said: “At the moment it is an initiative for school-going children...At the moment in terms of the various resource demands there is no immediate decision on extending it at present. It’s funded through the homeless budget under Section 10 of the Housing Act and there quite a lot of pressures on the funding. It’s something we could consider in the light of available funding.”
Ms Mitchell described his response as "very disappointing" as Minister Murphy had said last week "it was something he was seriously going to look at. So it seems the Department and the Minister are giving two different answers."
Fianna Fáil TD Ann Rabbitte asked that free access to the 10,000 heritage sites managed by the Office of Public Works be made available to homeless families.
“Why can’t we give visitor cards to those families? They are educational, they are practical, they are embedded in the community and could be free so families could go in and use them and it would be a day out.
“They are everywhere, we don’t need specific approval on it. That can happen at a request.”