Launch of Mercy Law Resource Centre Third Right to Housing Report: Children and Homelessness – A Gap in Legal Protection

Wednesday, 5th September 2018 saw the launch of Mercy Law Resource Centre’s third right to housing report, ‘Children and Homelessness: A Gap in Legal Protection’. The report was launched in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission offices on Green Street, Dublin. The report was launched by the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon. The report highlights the failure of the Irish State to provide adequate statutory or constitutional protection for children in homeless families.  Those in attendance included Mrs Sabina Higgins, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Nial Ring, as well as a broad spectrum of representatives from advocates of housing, politics, law and social justice.

Beginning the launch, acting managing solicitor of Mercy Law Resource Centre, Sinead Kerin, emphasised the gravity of the homeless crisis as a whole, with special consideration given to the children in homeless families. Sinead focused her speech on the unprecedented severity of homelessness in Ireland, sharing that, “As of July 2018, there were 3,867 children in emergency homeless accommodation with their families.” Further to this, Sinead endorsed the pertinence of the need for legal reform in housing legislation, with local authorities having “a discretion but no duty to provide emergency accommodation for children in families.” Sinead encapsulated the sentiment of Mercy Law Resource Centre that a right to housing would not give a key to a home for all, but would provide recognition that a home is central to the dignity of each and every person and a foundation of every person’s life.

Key speakers at the launch included Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy, Communication and Research, Focus Ireland, Professor Ursula Kilkelly, Dean of Law University College Cork, Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, and MLRC board member, Niall Farrell, Solicitor.

 

 

Tanya Ward’s presentation focused on the Children Rights Alliance report ‘Home Work’ which explores the educational needs of children experiencing homelessness. Family homelessness is having a detrimental impact on children’s participation and development, and presents significant challenges for parents, teachers, educators and those who seek to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights. It was noted by the Children’s Rights Alliance through talking to teachers that “children are arriving exhausted” and “becoming more withdrawn at school.”

Tanya Ward also echoed the sentiment of all present in saying that “it is not fair that the homeless crisis could change the trajectory of these children’s lives.”

 

Mike Allen led an impassioned response to the report, comparing the allowance of vacant properties to go uninhabited during a housing crisis to: “hoarding food during a famine.”  It was evident that the report resonated with the frustrations of several of the charities present, with Mike Allen extoling the sensibility and need for a right to housing in the constitution. Complementing this was Professor Ursula Kilkelly who focused not only on law reform, but a holistic approach to the housing crisis for children, seeing the solution not only one that requires housing rights, but focuses on the ‘survival and development rights of children.’ There was a call by Professor Kilkelly to create and maintain better international co-operation in creating a dialogue between countries for an array of perspectives and insights on how we could improve the law and crisis.

In officially launching the report,  Dr Niall Muldoon, The Ombudsman for Children, epitomised the gap in legal protection for families facing homelessness in Ireland, reiterating the multi-faceted impact of the problem: “it is not just the house, it’s the security… it’s the mental health.. it’s the ability to develop a family.” It was clear from Dr Muldoon that we will need to change our housing policies to fit the housing needs of our people, and refocus our emphasis on social housing as a long term solution rather than “a stepping stone to home ownership”.

The launch was rounded up with a question and answer session from those present, with Jan O’Sullivan TD, Eoin Ó Bhroin TD and Tony Geoghegan all contributing to the discussion. Niall Farrell, Mercy Law Resource Centre Board Member gave concluding marks on the session summarising that it is ‘not enough to aspire to have emergency accommodation, there has to be a surplus of accommodation.’

 

 

 

 

An e-copy of our latest report can be accessed here

For more photos of the event, please see here

 

 

 

For more information on Mercy Law Resource Centre’s work, please see www.mercylaw.ie.

 

 

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