Dáil Éireann - Volume 544 - 22 November, 2001
Written Answers. - Irish Persons Abroad.
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
17. Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the incidence of homelessness among Irish persons in Britain; and his plans to alleviate these difficulties. [29122/01]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I am aware of the recent media reports about the extent of homelessness of Irish people in Britain and among the street homeless in London in particular.
Accurate statistics are not available on the number of Irish who are homeless in Britain. Every six months the Simon Community counts the number of homeless people sleeping rough on the streets of London. The most recent count by the Simon Community was carried out on 3 November. While the nationalities of the street sleepers in inner London were not recorded during this head count the Simon Community, which is in contact with most of the people involved on a daily basis, estimate that more than a quarter of them, about 60, are Irish. For the greater London area, however, the proportion of Irish would not be as high. According to statistics for the year ended 31 March 1999 compiled by the Housing Services Agency, an official body which provides resettlement services for homeless people in London, 11% of people sleeping on the streets of greater London were Irish.
Many young Irish people who are homeless in Britain have experienced domestic problems at home and leave Ireland without adequate preparation. The Government and voluntary organisations in Ireland are engaged in efforts to assist intending migrants. The Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs supports voluntary groups, such as Emigrant Advice, which give pre-departure advice and information. FÁS makes available comprehensive information about coping with problems of living and working abroad.
The Government is committed to continue taking whatever further steps it can to address the problem of homelessness among recently arrived Irish immigrants in Britain, especially in London. It provides direct support to a number of voluntary organisations in Britain which advise and assist Irish people there, including groups which care for homeless Irish people. This year the Government made available grants amounting to £2.051 million to these organisations from the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Vote through the Díon Committee, which is based at the Embassy in London. This year's allocation  included an additional £1 million to improve the level of support to the welfare organisations which assist the most vulnerable and socially excluded members of the Irish community.
Dáil Éireann 544 Written Answers. Irish Persons Abroad.