Seanad debates

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Homeless Persons Supports

10:30 am

Photo of Malcolm NoonanMalcolm Noonan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Green Party) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Senator for raising this really important issue. Yesterday, I opened the Little Houses exhibition in Collins Barracks with the young people from Stoneybatter Youth Service. I urge the Senator, if he gets a chance, to go and look at that exhibition. It highlighted young people's experiences during lockdown of being at home and lots of the myriad issues they faced, in particular being restricted to home life and, perhaps, in some cases, homelessness. I thank the young people I met there. It was a wonderful collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland. It is really important to document that and it is critically important, particularly for young people who have experienced disproportionately the challenges of Covid and homelessness, that we address this. I will outline the Government's priorities in that regard.

A lot of work is already being done on service provision in this area, and I acknowledge the commitment of those involved in local authorities, as the Senator himself said, voluntary organisations and statutory bodies. Housing for All, the Government's strategic action plan, published in September, details how the Government is further approaching this challenge. It includes commitments to develop a youth homelessness strategy within quarter 1 of 2022 and to work to eradicate homelessness by 2030. Having specific policy and actions in this area is based on a fundamental understanding that supporting young people at risk of becoming homeless through strategic interventions can help avoid a cycle of longer term homelessness.

Preparing this strategy involves co-operation and co-ordination between the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman. Key operational elements in the provision of supports to young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness fall within the responsibility of a range of agencies and stakeholder bodies. Action has already commenced on the preparation of the youth homelessness strategy. The Ministers, Deputies Darragh O'Brien and Roderic O'Gorman, and their respective Departments have been engaging with one another, and work in this regard is proceeding.

On his appointment, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, also established a high-level homelessness task force to provide a forum for engagement with key organisations working to address homelessness. The task force is also inputting to the implementation of the commitments on homelessness in the programme for Government and Housing for All. The membership of the task force consists of the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, Crosscare, Depaul, Focus Ireland, the Peter McVerry Trust, the Dublin Simon Community, Threshold and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The Minister has discussed the preparation of a youth homelessness strategy and sought the views of members of the task force. Work on the strategy will continue through the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, involving broader stakeholder engagement.

It is well understood that certain young people leaving residential care, foster care, prison or juvenile detention services may be at enhanced risk of homelessness. Tusla has a responsibility in this area, which it addressed through the provision of aftercare supports for such young people. Since September 2017, young people leaving care at the age of 18 have the right to an aftercare plan prepared by Tusla. Tusla can provide assistance to young people up to the age of 21 who have been in care. This can be extended until the young person reaches 23 years of age in order to facilitate the completion of an education course. The plan, which includes arrangements for accommodation, is a key response in preventing a young man or woman from falling into homelessness.

Funding for a dedicated accommodation centre for care leavers is also provided through the capital assistance scheme operated by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The scheme funds approved housing bodies that work with local authorities in developing this accommodation. Housing for All specifically recognises the importance of this scheme.

Tackling homelessness across all ages has been a key priority of the Government. Significant progress has been made in recent times, with homelessness among children and families in particular decline. From a peak of 3,873 in September 2019, the number of children in emergency accommodation has fallen by almost 40% to 2,344. I assure Senator Boyhan and others in the House of the work being done to address homelessness among children and young people. Our commitment is to see this work enhanced over the coming years.


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