842 children who attended Temple Street’s ED in 2018 were discharged with no fixed home address: 29% increase on 2017 figure
The experience of homelessness reduces the physical, emotional, cognitive, social and behavioral development of children.
Monday 21st January 2019 @ 12mn) Today Temple Street Children’s University Hospital is reporting that of the 53k+ children (aged 0 – 16 years) who presented to their ED (Emergency Department) in 2018, 842 of these children were discharged with no fixed address, typically into emergency accommodation. This figure of 842 children compares to 651 children in 2017, which represents a 29% increase. The majority of these children (85%) presented with medical complaints including abdominal pain, high temperatures, chest infections, asthma, seizures, vomiting but 23% presented with trauma including hand and arm injuries, head lacerations, burns and self-harm. Temple Street is also reporting that 26% of these children were less than a year old.
Speaking about the ever increasing numbers and over representation of children with no fixed home address presenting to the Temple Street ED, Dr IK Okafor, Lead Emergency Medicine Consultant said ‘National data from November 2018 reports that there are now 3,811 children in Ireland who are deemed homeless and we are seeing an ever increasing number of those children every month in our ED. In October to December 2018 alone we saw 260 of these children. Their presentations are varied and complex but in the majority they stem from the fact that these children are living in completely unsuitable, cramped and temporary accommodation’.
‘Amongst these 842 children who have presented with no fixed home address, the Temple Street ED Team and I have looked after children with cystic fibrosis, neurological disorders, severe autism and children with significant developmental delays. We had a case in 2018, where a child who required surgery attended the Temple Street ED with their siblings, parents and extended family. This family had nowhere else to go until accommodation was found at 11pm. We have also looked after a young person who was assaulted on his way to emergency homeless accommodation. In addition some of our homeless families who are given accommodation outside of Dublin are finding it difficult to afford to attend their children’s OPD appointments’ continued Dr Okafor.
Research shows that homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life from conception to young adulthood and that the experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development of children.
- The impact of homelessness begins well before a child is born
- Poor nutrition also contributes to homeless children’s poor health
- Homeless women face many obstacles to healthy pregnancies, such as substance abuse, chronic and acute health problems, and lack of prenatal care
- Children born into homelessness are more likely to have low birth weights
- Homelessness also exposes infants to environmental factors that can endanger their health
- Homeless children begin to demonstrate significant developmental delays after 18 months of age, which are believed to influence later behavioral and emotional problems
- Homeless preschool age children also are more likely to experience major developmental delays and to suffer from emotional problems
- By the time homeless children reach school age, their homelessness affects their social, physical, and academic lives
Anne Marie Jones, Head Medical Social Worker, Temple Street is equally concerned about the 2,816 homeless children living in the Dublin Region. Speaking about the impact of homelessness on children and especially those children who were seen in the Temple Street ED during 2018, Anne Marie Jones said ‘The situation is shameful. When these children leave our ED, they stay in temporary accommodation with cramped conditions and no appropriate cooking, washing or play facilities. This results in accidents or traumas that wouldn’t normally happen if these families were housed in a family home.”
Anne Marie further reports that the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights encourages us to take a wider interpretation of housing which should not be seen merely as a roof over a child’s head. ‘Children have the right to live in a home with security, peace and dignity. Children are not inactive onlookers but are deeply and often irrevocably affected by the impact of being homeless. We need to show unrivalled support for these children and acknowledge that having a place that they can call home is one most fundamental of human rights’ concluded Anne Marie.
Temple Street Children’s University Hospital is joining the national campaign in partnership with charities and support agencies that advocate for and assist families entering into and experiencing homelessness, to call for action to end family homelessness.
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