4.1 General context
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According to Poverty Focus Ireland 2020, an annual report from Social Justice Ireland, 199,234 children and young people under 18 years of age lived in households experiencing poverty in 2018.
Social Justice Ireland is a non-profit organization, partly funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Scheme to Support National Organisations and Pobal (a not-for profit company that manages programmes on behalf of the Irish government and the EU).
Child and youth homelessness
Child and youth homelessness is a key challenge to social inclusion in Ireland. The lead local authorities for homelessness in each region provide monthly reports on homelessness that identify the number of people utilizing State-funded emergency accommodation on a regional and county basis. The number of 18 to 24 year olds reported as experiencing homelessness increased by 85% from the 2015-2018 period. In April 2018 there were 924 homeless young people in Ireland with 630 of those being in Dublin. The number of 18-24 year olds experiencing homelessness doubled between April 2014 (440) and April 2018 (924) and fell to 749 in April 2020. This compares with 903 18-24 year olds reported homeless in April 2019 and 793 reported in April 2017.
These numbers represent those counted in monthly figures and does not include those experiencing ‘hidden homelessness’ among young people. For example, young people who are ‘couch surfing,’ living in squats, overcrowded accommodation, precarious situations etc. The Irish Coalition to End Youth Homelessness was established in September 2017 as a way of consolidating the work different organisations do who are trying to tackle youth homelessness. This organisation calls the government to act on homelessness amongst young people. They also produce proposals for a Youth Homeless Strategy.
Homelessness and Covid-19
Focus Ireland in their third volume of ‘Focus on Homelessness’ that was published in October 2020, represented data that covered the first Covid ‘lockdown’ period of homelessness. In March 2020 government measures were introduced to prevent people becoming homeless during the pandemic including a block of all evictions and a rent-freeze. In March 2020 when the stay at home order came into effect, there was a 12% decrease of individuals in emergency accommodation including young people.
The Homelessness Taskforce met with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD in April 2021 to discuss the proposal of the Youth Homelessness Strategy, in particular regarding Covid-19. The meeting also addressed the ongoing work that happens to protect homeless people at risk of Covid-19 as the vaccine strategy is rolled out.
The High Level Homelessness Taskforce is made up of representatives from the Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Threshold, DePaul, CrossCare and the Dublin Region Homelessness Executive and meet regularly by videoconference.
Members of the Taskforce were asked to consider their current role in supporting young people experiencing homelessness, what services they are currently providing to young people in homeless services and what are the key challenges to address youth homelessness from a service provision viewpoint. This Taskforce want to reach realizable solutions and meet the specific needs of young people who end up experiencing homelessness but prevent young people from becoming homeless in the first place.
Young people living in Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres
Young people living in Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres is another key challenge to social inclusion in Ireland. Direct provision is a means of meeting the basic needs of food and shelter for asylum seekers directly while their claims for refugee status, subsidiary protection or appeals for leave to remain are being processed in Ireland. Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation Centres tend to be isolated, and residents must share rooms with most not having the facilities to cook for themselves or their families. In many Direct Provision centres, meals are only served at set times. A recent Report on Children in Direct Provision found that a lack of funds, transport, strict mealtimes and a ban on visitors to Direct Provision centres can exclude Asylum seekers. For example, this can exclude children from afterschool activities and youths from further or third level educational opportunities.
The most recent statistics published by the Irish Refugee Council state that in August 2019 there were 1,647 children living in Direct Provision.
In February 2021 the Irish Government published A White Paper to End Direct Provision and to Establish a New International Protection Support Service. The Government plans to replace the Direct Provision system with an international protection system over the next four years with a two-phased approach that plans to close all Direct Provision centres by the end of 2024.
Phase one is expected to take four months. In this phase, accommodation will be provided in reception and integration centres. Six reception and integration centres will be established and these will be owned by the State and run by not-for-profit organisations.
According to the plan, people including children who are applying for protection will be helped to integrate into Ireland from day one, with health, housing, education and employment supports at the core of the system. The necessary supports will be in place depending on the relevant needs of the person.
A health assessment will be provided for all new international protection applicants in phase one and there will be a focus on the needs of children who come to Ireland with their families.
Following phase one, applicants will be offered accommodation through a number of strands in phase two. The plan says after their first four months in Ireland, people whose protection claims are still being processed will move to accommodation in the community. All accommodation will be own-door, self-contained houses or apartments for families to provide privacy, agency and independence. Houses will be situated within the community, with supports to encourage interconnections especially for children and young people.
Minister of Children, Roderic O’Gorman said that the Government is taking a step towards a fairer, more compassionate Ireland.
In December 2021, the Department of Justice launched a new landmark scheme to assist long-term undocumented migrants in Ireland. This will allow eligible applicants to remain and reside in the State and become Irish residents.
Ireland uses a long-standing definition of poverty and social-inclusion and this is set out in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 but originates in the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, 1997;
‘People are living in poverty if their income and resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living which is regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally. As a result of inadequate income and resources, people may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities which are considered the norm for other people in society.’
The official Government approved property measure used in Ireland is consistent poverty. This measure was developed independently by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The measure identifies the proportion of people, from those with an income below a certain threshold (less than 60% of median income), who are deprived of two or more goods or services considered essential for the basic standard of living.
These good or services include the following
- Two pairs of strong shoes
- A warm waterproof overcoat
- To buy new clothes that are not second-hand
- Eat meals with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every single day
- Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week
- Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money
- Keep the home adequately warm
- Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year
- Replace any worn out furniture
- Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month
- Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight, for entertainment.