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Barnardos today welcomes Minister Zappone's plans to extend a scheme which provides free childcare to children under five living in emergency accommodation.
Barnardos children's charity is gravely disappointed that the number of children living in emergency accommodation has increased again. A total of 3,689 children were living in emergency accommodation at the end of March, which was an increase of 43 on the previous month. The charity has also flagged that thousands more children are experiencing 'hidden homelessness' - living in unsuitable, unsustainable and often overcrowded accommodation.
June Tinsley, Head of Advocacy, Barnardos said: "We are beyond disappointed that the number of children living in emergency accommodation has increased again and that we as a society are becoming immune to the levels of adversity it brings to children and families. The numbers unfortunately confirm that the decrease last month was not indicative of this crisis finally beginning to slow or even beginning to stabilise as the Minister indicated. It is truly clear the Government does not have a handle on the housing and homelessness crisis and that current policy measures are failing and not delivering solutions for the thousands of children without a home.
"In addition to the 3,689 children living in emergency accommodation, there are thousands more children and families who are also without a home - living with relatives or friends because they have nowhere else to go. Experiencing what we call 'hidden homelessness' these children and families are living in unsuitable, unsustainable and often overcrowded accommodation. Barnardos, together with Simon Communities in Ireland, Focus Ireland and St.Vincent de Paul yesterday highlighted that despite experiencing many of the same challenges as those living in emergency accommodation, these families are not counted by Government and do not qualify for many supports.
"Living in overcrowded and insecure accommodation profoundly affects a child's social, emotional and physical development. Often there is no space to play or do homework and children often have to share beds with siblings or parents. Tragically, many of these children are failing to meet key developmental milestones and are falling behind in school. The uncertainty of not knowing where they'll end up next and witnessing the stress experienced by their parents leaves them worried and anxious for their future."
'I find I'm becoming more and more grumpy and short-tempered with the kids. They're acting out too and I don't know how to deal with their behaviour. We're all sharing a room - Cian (7) and Aoife (12) are sharing a bed. Cian is tired and can't concentrate in school. Aoife is annoyed at the fact that she has to share a room with her dad and brother when she's nearly a teenager. I'm struggling to cope with the lack of space and the stress of trying to find a new home so I'm snappy with them a lot of the time, but I feel so guilty because none of this is their fault." - John, father of family experiencing hidden homelessness. Read John's story below.
Notes to editor:
Below is a real life story of a family that Barnardos work with who are experiencing hidden homelessness.
John, Aoife & Cian
John and his two children Aoife (12) and Cian (7), became homeless after John's relationship with his partner broke down. John temporarily moved his family into his sister's house while he looked for alternative accommodation. They have been living there for nine months now.
At first it was a novelty, John found his sister to be a great support and his kids loved living with their cousins. But as the months went by, the novelty wore off. The family are all living in one bedroom and they are struggling with the lack of space. Aoife and Cian share a single bed and John sleeps on a camp bed next to them. Most of the family's possessions had to be left behind when they left their old home and the children are really missing their personal things.
John has found it very difficult to maintain normal routines. The house is busy and with both children in one room it's very hard to get Cian to bed at an early hour. As a result, Cian is often tired during the week and his school work is suffering. Aoife recently turned 12 - an age where she really needs an occasional bit of privacy, but this is impossible in the current set-up.
Although his sister would never leave John and his family without a place to stay, John feels that he's over-staying his welcome. His sister recently announced that she's pregnant and John knows that she will soon need the spare bedroom back for her own family.
With all the pressure and stress he's been experiencing, John has been finding it more and more difficult to keep his patience with his children. Aoife and Cian are stressed and tired themselves, as a result they act out a lot. John has been really struggling to manage their behaviour.
Barnardos has been working with John to support his parenting, giving him tools to deal with his own stress and also manage his children's behaviour. Cian also attends a Barnardos Friendship Group to help improve his social skills and emotional development.
John desperately continues to search for a suitable home for his family.
Read hidden homelessness stories and experiences