A Sinn Féin motion, which called for child homelessness to be put on the monthly agenda of Wicklow County Council meetings until the figure of child homelessness for the county reached zero was debated at the most recent council meeting.
Due to divisions of opinion between councillors, it was agreed that the issue will be discussed for three months and will then be reviewed.
Speaking on the motion, Cllr Grace McManus said
“Child homelessness is very real in Co. Wicklow. I would categorise it as an emergency situation that has too often been in our peripheries as a society, and needs to be brought out into the light. This was the rationale for tabling this motion.
“Every month, details of presentations of homelessness, or at risk of homelessness, is included in the Chief Executive’s report. This was the rationale for some councillors not wanting child homelessness as a stand alone item, but as far as I can see every month we are asking questions of the Chief Executive but the numbers remain.
“Indeed, the responsibility to deal with this issue does not rest with the local authority staff alone. It is my belief that all 32 elected representatives have a responsibility to take action, to unpack the issue, to raise policy solutions with our national colleagues, ensure adequate resourcing and support for our housing staff, and to be determined, consistent and strategic in our collective work to solve this.
“If we don’t create the space within which to respond, this issue will continue, and it will be a failure for us all. I outlined this to the members at Monday’s meeting.
“There were 488 presentations including children up to November 2020 in Wicklow, during a pandemic. There is ample research of the impact homelessness, or the risk of homelessness, has on children’s mental health, well-being and development.
“Some members argued that we should not set a precedent of setting the agenda in this manner. With respect to the members of this belief, setting aside time every month to look after and respond to a crisis affecting our most vulnerable children is certainly a precedent I think we could stand over.
“I am willing and ready to discuss the best approach to deal with this issue, but I am committed that no matter what motions are voted on, this issue will remain on the agenda as long as I am on the council”
Cllr Dermot ‘Daisy’ O’Brien added
“Children can’t make representations on their own behalf, not least children who are homeless. Nor can they possibly comprehend that the impact of such adverse childhood experiences places them in higher ‘at risk’ categories the longer they remain in that situation.
“It is our collective responsibility as a County Council to prioritise issues that are having such severe impacts on our most vulnerable.”