Fr Peter McVerry: 3,000 children could be homeless in 2017

Outgoing Government scores C on keeping its promises to children, charity report says

Fr Peter McVerry said there are currently 1,700 children in emergency homeless accommodation, mostly in Dublin. Picture Nick Bradshaw

Fr Peter McVerry said there are currently 1,700 children in emergency homeless accommodation, mostly in Dublin. Picture Nick Bradshaw

 

There could be 3,000 children homeless in Ireland by this time next year, campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has said.

Speaking at the launch of the Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2016, an assessment of the Government’s performance on its promises to children, Fr McVerry said the homeless crisis could escalate at Easter because all hotel bedrooms were booked out for the 1916 centenary celebrations.

“I don’t know where homeless families are going to go to, but we could see – ironically while we are celebrating 100 years of independence – we could find homeless families living on the street and in public parks,” he said.

There are 1,700 children in emergency homeless accommodation at present, most of them in Dublin.

“As long as houses are seen as property to be bought and sold for profit, there is no solution,” Fr McVerry said.

The report card, prepared for the Children’s Rights Alliance by an independent panel of experts, graded the Government on child and youth homelessness. The highest grade, an A, was awarded for equality in family life, reflecting the passing of the marriage equality referendum last May.

The outgoing Government’s overall grade was C.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the charity, an umbrella body for more than 100 organisations, called on the new government to make children and young people a priority.

“It is crucial that we continue to have a Minister for Children and Young People with full cabinet status,” she said.

Right to health: C+

Paul Gilligan

“No child should wait longer than a month for mental health care. Every child has a right to live a mentally healthy life,” he said.

Right to equality and non-discrimination: D+

While inequalities in family life scored an A, the treatment of Traveller and Roma children scored an E-.

Apparently referring to new Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness said “the rejection of Traveller families from the rest of the community” could be seen in the fact a candidate for the county council in south Dublin “based her campaign on an objection to placing of Travellers in that particular area” and had gone on to become a TD.

On the treatment of migrant children, which scored D-, she said 1,500 were still living in direct provision.

“Just end it . . . it won’t kill us to allow families to integrate properly into the community,” she said.

Right to education: B-

Prof Áine Hyland said there had been significant improvement in some areas, including in early childhood and literacy, and the Government scored an A- on school buildings. But in patronage and pluralism, it scored a D. While initially the Government acted quickly, only 2 per cent of children now have access to multidenominational schools.

Children’s constitutional rights : C+

Ms Ward said the Children’s Referendum result became law last year, which was positive, but the constitutional convention had recommended a referendum on putting socioeconomic rights into the Constitution and that had not happened.

Right to protection from abuse and neglect: B

The grade took into account the establishment of the Child and Family Agency, Ms Ward said, and the Children First Act 2015, including an amendment to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement from common law, so parents or those in charge of children cannot rely on that defence to strike a child.

Right to an adequate standard of living: E+

The grade included an F on homelessness and a C+ for work on tackling poverty.