AN IRISH charity has estimated there are 1,800 homeless schoolchildren in Ireland and is calling on the Minister for Education to provide a support package for them.
Focus Ireland estimates that 1,200 National School pupils and 600 pupils in secondary education are homeless and has launched a campaign to highlight what it calls an ‘education crisis’ for those affected.
The charity is encouraging people to contact Minster for Education Richard Bruton to urge him to take action, and now Ireland’s largest teaching union, INTO, has backed the campaign.
Focus Ireland Advocacy Manager Roughan MacNamara said: “It is fundamentally wrong that as a society we now have 1,800 children who are homeless returning to school this week.
“These children and their families need a home. But without essential education supports right now, the children will suffer again.
“International research shows that being homeless damages a child’s education and can impact on their whole education.”
According to Focus Ireland, children coming to school from emergency accommodation can suffer from a lack of sleep and healthy diet, while they may experience bullying or family tensions as a result of their circumstances.
Cramped accommodation can make studying outside of school difficult, while the accommodation may be located in an area that makes it hard to reach school.
All of this, says the charity, impacts on a child’s ability to learn, a claim that teachers are now attesting to.
INTO President John Boyle revealed his members have witnessed first-hand the terrible impact of this crisis on children.
“Primary teachers see daily the challenges faced by children and families experiencing homelessness,” he said.
“INTO supports Focus Ireland’s call for guidance and resources to assist schools to ensure that the effects of homelessness on education and learning are minimised.
“From what we see and hear, as children get older, they begin to feel very conscious of their homeless situation and often isolate themselves from their school peers as they find it difficult to join in in school sports and other normal extra-curricular activities.”
Focus Ireland believes that a package of teacher training, guidance and targeted supports can help children experiencing homelessness.
The charity hopes the Government's imminent review of Rebuilding Ireland – an action for housing and homelessness – will include a commitment to develop a strategy on family homelessness.
You can support the Focus Ireland campaign by clicking here.