Republic of Ireland news

Barnardos working with more Irish children `than ever before'

Fergus Finlay of Barnardos said the charity is working with `more families and children than ever before'. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

THERE was more demand for Barnardos services in the Republic last year than ever before, the children's charity has revealed.

In 2017, it supported more than 14,869 children and families, compared with 14,163 that the previous year.

Chief executive Fergus Finlay said those helped were "families facing a wide spectrum of challenges".

"This year we worked with more families and children than ever before," he said.

"Homelessness, lack of access to vital health services, family discord, parental addiction and or mental health difficulties, bereavement and loss are among the many reasons why families come to Barnardos."

In September, Children's minister Katherine Zappone said the growing number of homeless children is a "wake-up call" for government and pledged to build more social housing.

The charity's head of advocacy June Tinsley said last year saw "the escalation of two critical issues which are putting many families under extreme stress - homelessness and medical waiting lists".

There were 3,333 children were living in emergency accommodation at the end of November 2017, with "hundreds, potentially thousands more living in inappropriate and crowded accommodation".

She criticised the government's approach and lack of investment.

"The steady rise in the number of homeless children throughout 2017 has made it clear that the government's approach is not sufficient to tackle this ever-worsening crisis.

"Meanwhile, thousands of children are kept waiting for essential public health services, particularly mental health services and speech and language therapy. Depending on where you live in the country, many are waiting for over a year for an initial assessment - some even longer than two years.

"... Having proper supports in place can mean the difference between poverty or stability, a safe home or homelessness, health and development or illness and delay.

"The time has come for the government to turn words into action and make a firm commitment to children in Ireland - 2018 must see (it) investing in quality public services when and where they are needed most, services that support families and protect children."

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