TEN halting bays in a Cork halting site heavily criticised by the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) will be refurbished, while a group housing scheme is also to be delivered in an adjacent site.
That is according to the response of the local authority responsible for the site, contained in the report launched today by the OCO.
In its No End In Site report, the OCO described conditions at the site as deplorable, highlighting a rodent infestation and poor sanitation.
Seventeen children at the site were interviewed by the OCO team working on the report, including some as young as three years old.
One child spoke of having dirty clothes as a result of having to go to school through a dirty passageway while another told of seeing rats on the site, including running up and down “the walls of the trailer”.
Another interviewee spoke of the dampness of the bedsheets in the mornings while investigators also noted a lot of rubbish in the area.
The OCO recommended that a risk assessment must be carried out in cooperation with the residents, including children, to address the health and safety risks identified at the site.
The report said that particular consideration should be given to the connection of all mobile units to plumbing and sewerage, the refurbishment of the welfare huts which house toilet and shower facilities, the removal of fire safety hazards, the clearing of children’s passage to school and the consistent provision of waste management, pest control, electrical and other maintenance. The matter of illegal dumping on the site must also be addressed as a matter of priority, according to the OCO.
In response, the local authority Response said a risk assessment will be carried in the third quarter of this year.
It added that initial survey work has already begun. And it said: “New temporary welfare pods will be provided in Quarter 3, 2021 at the latest. The original 10 bays, including the welfare units, electrics, water, and sanitary services will be completely refurbished, in parallel with the delivery of a group housing scheme in the adjacent site.”
It continued: “Alternative methods of refuse collection will be examined. Pest control service will resume following its temporary suspension due to Covid-19 and this will require full cooperation with residents. Clearing (the) children’s passage to the school is a complex and emotional matter but proactive engagement will continue to find mutually acceptable access solutions for both the children living in the halting site and the children residing in the neighbouring community.”
The Traveller Visibility Group (TVG) and the Cork Traveller Women’s Network (CTWN) welcomed the report, highlighting that this is the OCO’s first report focusing on the lives of Traveller children and is a result of working with families over the course of 3 years.
Breda O’Donoghue of the Traveller Visibility Group said: “It is positive to see that the Local Authority has agreed to a detailed action plan with OCO to go about resolving the many issues that impact on children’s rights who are living on the site. We look forward to working with the Local Authority, OCO and the families involved during this process.”
Brigid Carmody of the Cork Traveller Women’s Network added: “We welcome the ongoing monitoring of OCO in implementing the action plan as this ensures real structural change for the families living on the site and accountable actions that must be delivered.”