There is a growing concern that best practice and legislation related to the Children First Guidelines 2017 and the Children First Act 2015, are not being implemented within all Homeless Service Provision for families with children. The Guidelines and Legislation are the statutory regulations with regard to the protection and welfare of children. Tusla received an average of 10 child protection and welfare referrals a month in the first half of this year, relating to children who were in homeless accommodation. Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen, has said ‘staff in his organisation were concerned that people running hotels were not submitting these notices (referrals) in the way NGO emergency accommodation providers might do’.
Aine McGuirk, Chairwomen of the Irish Association of Social Workers has advised that the number of referrals made to Tusla raises a query as to whether homelessness is in its self, a contributory factor to some reports; she said ‘ the family may have been OK if they had the support, but you can’t put the supports in if they are going from hotel bed to bed’.
These issues raised in the Irish Examiner today raise fundamental concerns about the level of implementation and adherence to Children First Guidelines and the Children First Act by the Local Authorities. We are calling on the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, the Department of Housing, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, the local authorities and Tusla to advise us if all Local Authorities are fully compliant with the Guidelines and Legislation with regard to Children First? Have risk assessments been carried out, do they have safety statements? do they have an updated policy in place to reflect legislation and update guidelines? Has either of the Departments overseen the regulation and implementation of Children First Guidelines and Children First Act?
There is growing concern that homeless service provision for children and parents along with direct provision will be the State enquiries of the future.
While it is acknowledged that the significant majority of families in homeless accommodation currently do no require extra supports or Tusla involvement, we do know that there has been and will continue to be families and children who require these additional supports.