Five years to the day since the Children’s Referendum to guarantee the rights of children in our constitution, Labour Housing spokesperson, Jan O’Sullivan, has said it is now time to recognise the rights of homeless children and the family unit.
The Labour Party will use Private Members Time in the Dáil on Wednesday to debate its Homeless Families Bill, which would recognise homeless children in their own right within the family unit.
Deputy O’Sullivan said:
“This day five years ago the Irish people voted in a referendum to guarantee the rights of children in our constitution.
“The result was, and is, important, because it makes a statement that Ireland recognises children as citizens with inherent rights and a voice that deserves to be heard.
“With that in mind, it is even more shocking to know that 3,124 of our children were homeless at the end of last month.
“Each one of the 3,124 has only one childhood, one chance to grow in a nurturing environment.
“Yet, children have no individual rights in the context of homelessness – the needs of the parents are assessed, but there is no legislation to make sure homeless families have rights as a family unit.
“The Labour Party wants to change this, and will use Private Members time in the Dáil next week to debate our Housing (Homeless Families) Bill.
“When a family presents as homeless the children are not recognised in their own right but simply as dependents of adults.
“If enacted, our Bill would change that, by requiring housing authorities to regard the best interests of the child as paramount and to protect and assist families, including by providing them with safe accommodation.
“This would prevent any more situations like we saw recently where families are advised to check into a Garda station to stay safe for the night.
“Five years after the children’s rights referendum, it is time to make sure that families w ho find themselves in homeless situations can at least know that the needs of their children will be put centre-stage – as they should be.”