It is not possible to reclaim a lost childhood, says rapporteur at launch of COPE Galway report

Caption/Description: Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and Jacquie Horan, Ceo, COPE Galway, at the launch of the COPE GALWAY Annual Report, at the Harbour Hotel, Galway. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Caption/Description: Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection and Jacquie Horan, Ceo, COPE Galway, at the launch of the COPE GALWAY Annual Report, at the Harbour Hotel, Galway. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Childhood is for a limited period of time and cannot be reclaimed if a child has a sub-optimal experience due to inadequate housing, claimed Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, when he delivered the keynote speech at the launch of COPE Galway’s 2016 Annual Report.

COPE Galway also revealed a 27 per cent increase in the numbers of families seeking assistance due to homelessness or the risk of homelessness, and a disturbing 39 per cent increase in the numbers of children experiencing homelessness in Galway.

Dr Shannon spoke of how a child’s human rights are seriously affected where a child is placed in emergency accommodation and how their basic rights to play, rest and space often cannot be enjoyed when living in emergency accommodation.

He explained, “The Committee on the Rights of the Child points to well-established understandings of the importance to children of play, leisure and rest. It is intrinsic to children’s healthy development that they sufficiently enjoy these rights and it is, therefore, a crucial children’s rights and child protection issue.”

COPE Galway CEO, Jacquie Horan presented the full extent of the numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Galway in 2016 and commented, “Unfortunately, as the Housing Crisis is particularly acute in Galway city, that number continues to increase, with the latest Department of Housing figures showing further increases in August”. B&Bs and Hotels in Galway City continue to play an important role in accommodating families who become homeless. But this type of accommodation is not the answer to the homelessness crisis being experienced by so many families and individuals in Galway city and county”.

Dr Shannon referenced the preamble to the 1989 UN convention on the Rights of the Child, which talks of the special phase of childhood which is deeply affected by a child being housed in emergency accommodation. “Childhood is for a limited period of time and cannot be reclaimed if a child has a sub-optimal experience due to inadequate housing.” He said, “The measure of a democracy is the manner in which the needs of the most vulnerable are considered and met. Yet all too often children are treated as passive spectators in the debate on adequate housing in Ireland. A child’s human rights are seriously affected where a child is placed in emergency accommodation.”

COPE Galway is asking the people of Galway for their support to help address the accommodation needs of families who become homeless in our community. Jacquie Horan said, “We are appealing to people who have flats, apartments or houses that are already or are due to become vacant; to make them available to rent to families through COPE Galway. I believe that in Galway we can all work together to provide more suitable emergency accommodation for families, who are unfortunately remaining homeless for extended periods of time, so as to minimise the disruption that homelessness causes to their lives”.

Dr Shannon said that it is salutary that one quarter of the population of Ireland is aged under 18.

"They are our greatest national resource. The access to housing is crucial and we must get it right for every family and every child. We need to imagine a new republic based on equality for all children.

"The manner in which a society treats its vulnerable citizens reflects not only its qualities, but also its sense of social justice, its commitment to the future and its ambition to enhance the human condition for the next generation”.

Jacquie Horan concluded by saying that together with the help of the community, COPE Galway can create a better living environment for our most vulnerable children.

"COPE Galway together with our statutory and voluntary partners is fully committed to achieving this with your help. We need access to houses which in turn will be used directly for families in crisis who are in need of a home," she said.

Contact COPE Galway for a no obligation discussion at 091 778750 and speak to Martin or Jacquie.

Visit www.copegalway.ie to watch the COPE Galway Annual Report video, Katie’s Story, and to read the full version of the Annual Report, which has information and stories from people who have come through all of COPE Galway’s services for people experiencing homelessness or domestic violence and services for Older People in Galway.

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