Homeless children sleeping in hotels 'is no longer acceptable'
HOMELESS children sleeping in hotels with their families is no longer acceptable in 21st Century Ireland, the Ombudsman for Children said.
There are "lots of areas to be improved upon" in relation to children's welfare, Dr Niall Muldoon told the Herald.
He has highlighted issues of child poverty and child homelessness in Ireland to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
More than 137,000 children live in constant poverty in Ireland, a figure that accounts for roughly 12pc of Irish children.
"It's huge and we're very concerned about it in a country like ours," Dr Muldoon said.
"The figure stood at 6.8pc in the last report to the Committee. We need to get it back down very quickly."
Dr Muldoon said the toughest outcome of the economic downturn had been homelessness and its effect on children, and he described families living in hotels as "a stop-gap position that we want to make sure is not a long-term problem".
"Its not appropriate for families to be living in one room in hotels where children have no place to play, there's no place to cook, nowhere to bring their friends," he said.
"It's a new phenomenon and we want to make sure it stays high on the agenda."
Developments including the setting up of the Department for Children and Youth Affairs and the Child and Family Agency were described as positive moves since the last report in 2008.
Dr Muldoon said 61 recommendations were made to highlight areas that the State can approve on.
Issues raised by Dr Muldoon include education, mental health for children and child protection.
As the ombudsman, it is Dr Muldoon's statutory responsibility to independently monitor the welfare of children living in Ireland and submit a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The committee conducts ongoing reviews that assess each state on its achievements in relation to child welfare and identifies progress that needs to be made.
The Government will discuss the ombudsman's findings early next year with the UN committee, which will outline its recommendations based on the report.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said it welcomes this year's report and is urging the Government to remember that Ireland has international obligations to meet concerning the needs of migrant children.
"As a country, we have obligations to protect and support all children, not just those whose parents are Irish or are legally resident in the State," said the council's chief executive, Brian Killoran.
"We welcome the issues highlighted by the Children's Ombudsman and call on the Government to respond swiftly."
The council recommends that the Government should implement a national action plan to combat racism and see the appointment of indep- endent guardians for all children in the asylum system who are separated from their families.
It also wants the Government to extend the protections of the ombudsman to all children in Ireland, regardless of citizenship.
Dr Muldoon told the Herald that all migrant children who are not in the direct protection system should be.
"We've made a recommendation that the State should enact legislation to provide adequately for the rights of migrant children who are not protected applicants," he said.
This is the third report since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was introduced in Ireland.