Zappone ‘deeply upset’ homeless families sent to Garda stations

‘Distressed’ Minister for Children says incident a ‘real strong message to Government’

 Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she felt very distressed to think about homeless families, and especially children, being sent to Garda stations because they had nowhere else to go. Photograph:  Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she felt very distressed to think about homeless families, and especially children, being sent to Garda stations because they had nowhere else to go. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said she was “deeply upset” and “distressed” to hear that homeless families had been sent to Garda stations in Dublin on Tuesday night, because there was nowhere else for them to go.

Twelve homeless families, including more than 30 children, were told to go to Garda stations because no other emergency accommodation was available for them.

Ms Zappone said she felt very distressed to think about families and especially children in that context, and it was “a real strong message to Government”.

“We do need to listen and be attentive to what is going on there,” she said.

The Minister said she understood Dublin City Council, working with the Dublin Regional Health Executive, had doubled the capacity of contingency accommodation spaces for families since Tuesday night.

“That hasn’t happened since that time and we hope that it won’t again,” she said.

She also said Government needed to look again at its plans to avoid the incident happening again.

Commitment

Asked whether she believed the commitment made by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney that no homeless family would have to live in a hotel from July this year and they would be housed in transitional accommodation, she said she was “pleased to hear that ambition and commitment”.

“There will be a significant number I think, and yes I do believe it, of families that will be taken out of emergency accommodation within the next four to six weeks, as I understand it, because these things are being built right now for them,” Ms Zappone said.

“That’s a more medium-term solution, and a critical aspect as well, is a focus on building social housing.”

Fred McBride, chief executive of Tusla, said, as far as he was aware, there was no referral or direct contact with the organisation in relation to the 12 homeless families.

Child protection interventions

“We may have been able to help in some way at least,” he said.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has a dedicated social worker whose job it is to liaise with homelessness services and with the Dublin homelessness executive as a contact point for homeless families. They can offer supports, and not just child protection interventions, but family support and advice on other services, Mr McBride said.

“We need to, of course, be very conscious that because a family is homeless, it doesn’t mean they necessarily need statutory social work intervention,” he said.

“They need support and Tusla can provide some of that. We just need to be careful that parents are able and willing, and are not frightened or reluctant, to come forward for that kind of support.”