I am delighted to have this brief opportunity to strongly support the initiative of Deputies Boyd Barrett, Gino Kenny and Bríd Smith in bringing this motion before the Dáil and in such a timely manner. A couple of weeks ago, I told the Tánaiste that according to the homelessness report of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, almost 6,000 adults and 3,700 children are homeless and of these, more than 4,000 homeless adults and almost 3,000 homeless children were based in the four Dublin local authority areas. There are up to 40,000 households on the Dublin housing waiting list. The Dublin Bay North constituency is the worst affected in the country by homelessness and long housing list
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to raise with the Taoiseach the issue of the housing lists and homelessness in Dublin Bay north. My constituency has the longest housing list in the country and some of the worst homelessness statistics, bigger I believe than the whole of Fingal and south Dublin. I highlight the fact that from 2015 to 2017 neither Fingal nor Dublin city delivered anything significant. There were totals of one or two houses being built in a year. That is ludicrous.
Last November, the Taoiseach came to Clongriffin in Dublin Bay North with the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to lay the foundation stone for an 84 unit social housing development for the Iveagh Trust. Unfortunately these 84 welcome new homes we spoke of on that happy occasion will not be delivered until quarter 2 of 2019. Probably like the Taoiseach and many other Deputies, I meet dozens of citizens and families every weekend who are in great anxiety and distress over the Government’s continuing failure to deliver social and affordable housing. I meet constituents who have spent 12, 14, 16 and even up to 20 years on housing and transfer lists and some of these are facing eviction from rental accommodation scheme, RAS, housing assistance payment, HAP, and rent supplement supported tenancies, sometimes on foot of a court order.
Deputy Broughan will continue to raise the plight of homelessness and the Housing Crisis this year in Dáil Éireann, demanding change and action for the thousands of homeless children across the country. 2018 began with news that the Gresham Hotel was to stop accepting families from DCC for emergency accommodation. At the end of 2017, there were still more than 650 families being accommodated in wholly unsuitable hotel/b&b/guesthouse emergency accommodation, 5 months after the Government’s commitment to end the practice.
It is approximately two and a half years since I made a complaint to the Ombudsman for Children, Mr. Niall Muldoon, about the conditions in which children were living in hotel rooms, guesthouses and emergency accommodation. I have also asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Katherine Zappone, what work is being done to address the longer term physical and mental health impacts of homelessness on children. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, told me yesterday that there were still 676 families and approximately 3,000 children in this type of accommodation. The Government and everyone who has served as Minister with responsibility for housing will be held to account for this in years to come, be it by way of tribunals or mutli-party actions and so on. What is the Minister doing on a weekly basis to help the families mentioned?
As the Minister is aware, there are now more than 3,200 children living in hotel rooms, family hubs, bed and breakfast accommodation, domestic violence refuges and other unsuitable and cramped accommodation. The Minister and her Government committed to ending the use of hotel rooms and that type of accommodation for accommodating families who are homeless by 1 July 2017. That deadline was missed. Although some families were moved into hubs, I believe 690 families are still in hotel rooms. Has the Minister carried out any studies in respect of the physical and mental health impacts of this on these children? Is there any follow-up when, hopefully and at long last, they receive permanent accommodation? What weekly actions will the Minister take in order to protect and care for the welfare of those children? For example, has the Minister visited any of the hotels or hubs in question?
Following a recent report by the Building Control Management System (BCMS) which stated that there were just 2,076 new homes built during 2016, Deputy Broughan raised a number of Parliamentary Questions with the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney. Deputy Broughan raised these questions as the BCMS figure was so starkly at odds with Minister Coveney’s reports that almost 15,000 new homes were built during 2016 according to the ESB connection figures.
Deputy Broughan is growing increasingly concerned at what alternative accommodation options Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, and Local Authorities are coming up with for the thousand plus homeless families across the country. With just 4 months remaining of the Government’s target to re-house 1,172 families with 2,407 dependants from entirely unsuitable hotel room accommodation by mid-2017, Deputy Broughan is hoping that the alternatives will be appropriate, secure, spacious and safe. Over 1,000 of these families are based in Dublin alone with 2,046 of the almost 2,500 children as part of these Dublin families. Indeed, a large number of these families are looking to be housed in Deputy Broughan’s own constituency of Dublin Bay North with Dublin City Council’s Area B experiencing highest demand.
As the Minister is aware; a few weeks ago there were almost 2,500 homeless children throughout the country, with over 2,000 of those in Dublin alone. In July, the Minister held a summit of agencies working on the front line with homeless families, including Focus Ireland, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, ISPCC, and Barnardos. She promised a whole series of concrete and costed supports, including free transport, more nourishing food, crèche placements and so on. Last month we heard from Focus Ireland that the Minister has delivered on virtually none of those steps and my experience representing families is that the Minister has delivered nothing.
Today in Dáil Éireann, Deputy Tommy Broughan questioned Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, on the of the child focus of the National Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness and the number of children currently being supported. Deputy Broughan also requested an update on the commitments Minister Zappone made in July of this year on measures to support children and families experiencing homelessness across Ireland.