Sinn Féin spokesperson for Children and Youth Affairs Denise Mitchell TD has called for the extension of a free travel scheme for homeless children living in emergency accommodation, beyond the school term.
Speaking following a response from the Housing Minister, in which he said there are no plans to extend the public transport scheme, Deputy Mitchell said:
“We have seen from the Ombudsman for Children’s Report ‘No Place Like Home’ the experiences of those living in emergency accommodation and that there is a serious problem with social exclusion.
“Children and young people cannot have visitors over to the hubs, they often lack outdoor play spaces while at the same time the hubs may be located quite a distance away from where their friends are.
“While the move to provide these children with Leap cards for essential travel during the school term is welcome, it should be extended to year-round.
“The ability of these young people to continue taking part in social events, to continue playing sports and other activities are just as important for their overall wellbeing.”
Deputy Mitchell said the extension of the scheme would help ensure young people and children do not become marginalised or excluded from participating in activities:
“I am quite disappointed by the Housing Minister’s response on the matter. There are around 3,700 young people living in emergency accommodation.
“These young people are already in a very difficult position and we have seen in the Ombudsman’s Report how young people, particularly teenagers, in these hubs have expressed a sense of isolation and a feeling of confinement.
“This is down to a number of factors including the fact they cannot have visitors over, that they must be supervised at all times on the premises and that they are often living quite a distance from their friends.
“While the ultimate solution to the problem of homelessness is for long-term housing solutions in the form of social and affordable housing, small steps like this – which would have a very small cost – are important to ensure these young people do not feel excluded or isolated from society.”