Cork education expert: Needs of homeless children must be prioritised at time of crisis

Cork education expert: Needs of homeless children must be prioritised at time of crisis
A standard emergency accommodation unit for a homeless mother and two children at Edel House in Cork. 

A CORK lecturer in Child Psychology and Early Years Education and Care has called on the government to consider the needs of homeless children amid the coronavirus outbreak which has seen schools close.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Thursday that all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland are to close until March 29 at the earliest. Speaking in Washington, Mr Varadkar said cultural institutions will also close but public transport will continue to operate.

Shops, restaurants and other businesses are to remain open but limitations are being placed on indoor and outdoor gatherings of people.

Indoor gatherings of 100 people or more are cancelled, while outdoor gatherings of 500 or more are also cancelled.

The Taoiseach said: “This will involve big changes and enormous sacrifices but we are doing it for each other.

“The economy will bounce back, lost time at school can be recovered, we must look out for each other.”

Dr. Judith Butler. Pic Clare Keogh/Provision
Dr. Judith Butler. Pic Clare Keogh/Provision

Speaking to The Echo, Dr Judith Butler, lecturer in child psychology at Cork Institute of Technology and a leading Cork expert in the field of early years education and care (ECEC) highlighted the concerning situation for children in emergency accommodation across Ireland.

“Many children will be celebrating the closing of schools this week but for families and children living in emergency accommodation the opposite is true,” she explained.

“We have over 3,000 children in Ireland who are homeless and as a result are living in emergency accommodation with limited space and restriction.

“Experiencing homelessness is horrific for any family but doing so during a time like this brings a new set of challenges,” she added.

“I am calling on our elected representatives to consider the needs of these children and their families now more than ever.”

Cork GP Dr Nick Flynn, of MyCorkGP.ie and Union Quay, highlighted the importance of children not mixing in large groups.

“In most epidemics young children are the transmitters,” he explained.

“Therefore, for school closure to be effective it’s really important that the kids aren’t mixing with other kids while out of school.

“They will give it to each other silently and pass it on to loved ones,” he added.

“What we do now will contribute to how this develops in Cork. Avoid situations where the children will interact,” advised Dr Flynn.

“If the community responds to this, it will shut it down more than anything we do in hospitals.”

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