Given our experience over the past decade of poor performance in the delivery of social housing, does the Minister agree with the many excellent civil society groups, including the Mercy Law Resource Centre, who argue that we should insert a right to housing into our Constitution? Numerous Opposition Deputies have tried to bring forward motions and Bills on this issue, including Deputy Thomas Pringle who introduced the Thirty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Bill 2018. Is it now time to include the right to housing in our Constitution?
On a number of occasions, I have raised with the Minister and the Taoiseach the fact that my constituency of Dublin Bay North has the largest number of people on social housing waiting lists. In September, three families became homeless every day nationally. Week in, week out, I meet families with children who are sofa surfing and living in very overcrowded accommodation. A total of 35,000 people are living in such accommodation. Almost 10,000 more are homeless and living in emergency accommodation, hubs, hotels and guesthouses. There are also people sleeping in their cars or trying to do so as the weather begins to turn. What kind of hope can somebody like me give those families as we approach the Christmas period, particularly people in the offer zone, that the situation will be expedited? Has the Minister any plans to drastically improve the delivery of social housing in Dublin?
This week I have been working on my quarterly newsletter, Northsider Vol 26 No 4 and hope to have it finalised and distributed in coming weeks. On Tuesday morning, I questioned the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, on the changing services of Family Resource Centres in working with families and children experiencing homelessness. Later that day I spoke in support of the Motion on Apprenticeships and called for a greater range of apprenticeships to be available. This is a very important part of our education and training sector and increased efforts must be made to improve participation rates, particularly among women.
As the Minister knows, we still have almost 4,000 children experiencing homelessness in emergency accommodation, with perhaps thousands more in insecure and unsuitable accommodation. The Minister told me earlier this year that we now have 120 family resource centres operating across the country with a budget of approximately €14 million. Does the Minister intend to give increased allocations to some or all of the centres in order to provide some services for families and children experiencing homelessness?
Today, during Statements on Child Homelessness, Deputy Broughan told the Dáil that it is three years since he met with the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, and highlighted his concern at the inappropriate accommodating of homeless children in hotel rooms and b&bs and at the lack of action by the Government in tackling the crisis. At that time, he also met with the Children’s Rights Alliance regarding the inclusion of children experiencing homelessness in their report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. That summer in 2015 (during the week of the 24th – 30th of August 2015), there were a shocking 707 homeless families and 1,496 homeless children but now during the week of the 21st to the 27th of May 2018, the most recent figures made available this afternoon, those numbers jumped dramatically to 1,724 homeless families with 3,826 homeless children (up again from 1,712 homeless families with 3,689 homeless children at the end of April 2018).