Free public transport scheme for homeless children should be extended beyond school term – Denise Mitchell TD
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.”
Editor’s Note: See the Below response from the Minister
For Oral Answer on : 11/06/2019
Question Number(s): 53 Question Reference(s): 22200/19
Department: Housing, Planning and Local Government
Asked by: Denise Mitchell T.D.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government if children living in emergency and homeless accommodation will be provided with a travel card to allow them use public transport outside of the school term free of charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Supporting individuals and families experiencing homelessness is a priority for this Government and the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan includes a range of measures which reflect that priority. In particular, Rebuilding Ireland includes specific actions relating to the provision of emergency accommodation and the range of supports to be provided to households accessing such accommodation.
Under Rebuilding Ireland, my Department is funding an initiative to provide homeless families residing in temporary emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region with access to free public transport for essential school journeys. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) oversees the implementation of this initiative and, working in partnership with the National Transport Authority, has put arrangements in place for the provision of Leap cards to the families concerned. These Leap cards provide for free public transport for school-going children and accompanying adults, where necessary. The cards are distributed through the Family Homeless Action Teams, which are also funded by the DRHE.
As the Leap cards were introduced to support essential school journeys, there are no plans to extend the provision of the cards outside of the school term. However, the Community Welfare Service of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection may consider, on a case-by-case basis, the needs of an individual household in respect of exceptional transport costs.