Labour Bill to recognise rights of homeless children

01 June 2017

Labour Housing Spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has published legislation that aims to ensure the best interests of homeless children are recognised by Local Authorities in an emergency situation.

The Housing (Homeless Families) Bill 2017 would require Local Authorities to recognise the rights of a child in a family unit when applying for accommodation or other assistance, which are currently not explicitly recognised under the Housing Acts.

Deputy O’Sullivan said:

“I think we were all shocked to hear reports during the week about homeless families and children having to sleep in a Dublin park because there was no other accommodation available.

“The law needs to be changed to put the best interests of the child at the heart of the action that is taken when a family becomes homeless.

“As it stands, the Housing Acts refer to a person as homeless if there is no accommodation available which the person, “together with any other person who normally resides with him or who might reasonably be expected to reside with him”, can reasonably be expected to occupy.The homeless person is then entitled to apply to a housing authority for accommodation or other assistance.

“But there is no explicit recognition in our current legislative scheme of the ‘other persons’ as persons in their own right, with entitlements under law.

“Specifically, there is no statutory recognition of the needs of a homeless family unit nor, notwithstanding the passing of the constitutional amendment on the rights of the child, is there any statutory recognition of the constitutional rights of homeless children.

“Our Housing (Homeless Families) Bill 2017 would require Local Authorities to recognise these persons as a family unit and to have specific regard to the best interests of the children of homeless families in crisis accommodations situations.

“Taking them to a Garda station or telling the family to ‘self-accommodate’, which means spending hours trying to find a hotel or B and B that will take them, is hugely stressful and we can only imagine how alarming this must be for children.

“In 2012, the Rights of the Child were enshrined in the Constitution. Those rights must be back up by legal instruments.

“The Bill we are presenting puts the ‘best interests of the child’ at the centre of how Local Authorities must provide for homeless families, including the need for safe accommodation, and I sincerely hope it will be accepted by Government and enacted as soon as possible.”

Notes to Editors:

Copy of the proposed Bill and Explanatory memo available here:

https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/housing_homeless_families_bill_2017.pdf

 

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