Dáil Éireann - Volume 461 - 08 February, 1996
Written Answers. - Accommodation of Children.
Kathleen Lynch Kathleen Lynch
29. Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health the number of children under the care of health boards who were accommodated in hospitals beds, bed and breakfasts and adult hostels in each health board area in 1995; the average number of days spent by a child in such accommodation in 1995; the longest number of days spent by any child in such accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2723/96]
Mr. Flood Mr. Flood
41. Mr. Flood asked the Minister for Health the concerns, if any, he has at the increasing high number of children placed in bed and breakfast type accommodation; the action, if any, he proposes to take to have this practice stopped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2726/96]
Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East) Michael Noonan
 Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan, Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 41 together.
The detailed information requested by Deputy Lynch in relation to the number of children in the care of health boards accommodated in hospital beds, bed and breakfasts and adult hostels in 1995 is not readily available in my Department. I will arrange to let the Deputy have details as soon as they come to hand.
As the Deputies will be aware, section 5 of the Child Care Act, 1991 requires health boards to take such steps as are reasonable to make available suitable accommodation for homeless children up to 18 years. Health boards are developing a range of options to enable them to discharge their responsibilities under this section. These include emergency hostels and other forms of residential accommodation; day care programmes for adolescents who are currently homeless or at risk of being homeless; out of hours social work services targeted at homeless children; and special foster care services for out of home adolescents.
I do not regard the use of bed and breakfast accommodation as an acceptable response to the problem of youth homelessness. My Department has made it clear to the health boards that if, in cases of emergency, there is no alternative to the placement of a homeless child in this form of accommodation, immediate steps should be taken to secure an appropriate hostel, residential or family placement for the child. At the same time, it must be recognised that the occasional case may arise where the provision of bed and breakfast accommodation may be appropriate for a youngster who is only seeking overnight accommodation in response to a specific unforeseen situation. It is my firm intention to minimise the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for this purpose to the greatest possible extent.
The Eastern Health Board, in whose area the problem of youth homelessness is mainly concentrated, is pursuing a  number of strategies to reduce its use of bed and breakfast accommodation and the number of young people in such accommodation has been reduced significantly. An important development has been the recent establishment of an emergency/short-term care facility which can cater for up to 14 young people who are temporarily out of home or are awaiting a more long-term placement. In addition, the 1995 Child Care Action Plan provided for a further range of important new child care developments including the provision of additional hostel and other residential places and an expansion of the board's out-of-hours social work service into a 24-hour crisis intervention service for all children. I am confident that these services, which will become fully operational over the coming months, will greatly strengthen the capacity of the Eastern Health Board to provide appropriate accommodation and services for homeless young people.
The Health Estimate for 1996 includes provision for a further investment of £5 million in the child care services. This brings to £35 million the total additional funding that has been provided for these services since 1993 and will enable substantial further progress to be made this year in expanding services and supports for children and families in need, including the young homeless.
Dáil Éireann 461 Written Answers. Accommodation of Children.