Children living at a local authority-run halting site have increased rates of skin conditions and respiratory problems as a direct result of the living conditions at the site, according to a report from the Children's Ombudsman.
The report details the investigation which followed a complaint made by a Traveller Advocacy Group in March 2018, in which they raised issues such as persistent rodent infestations, inadequate sanitation, extreme overcrowding, and unsafe and inadequate electrical works.
Sixty-six children live on the site, however, the report notes: "There has been very little improvement to these facilities for children in nearly 10 years".
Investigators spoke to 17 children living on the site, some of whom said they feel different to their peers due to the standard of the conditions on the site.
The report includes quotes from the children, with one 14-year-old girl saying: "People ask why I'm dirty, but I'd be ashamed to say. I don't want to say it was from walking out of the site."
A 12-year-old girl is also quoted as having said: "Walking up to school, you see all the rats...They would be running up and down the walls of the trailer."
The group who made the complaint to the Children's Ombudsman in 2018 said they were exhausted by efforts to improve conditions, while the report states the local authority said they were "trying to make things better".
The Ombudsman found there was a failure to consider the best interests of the children living at the site, while there was also a failure to refurbish the welfare units in a timely manner and ensure consistent waste management and pest control.
The report also states there was a failure to "clear passage for the children travelling to school" and create safe places for them to play. Record keeping regarding the site also lacked transparency and accountability the Ombudsman said, while "carelessness and undesirable administrative practice has resulted in overcrowding and serious risks on the site for children".
The Ombudsman made nine recommendations in the report, including the establishment of a specific complaint handling mechanism within the Traveller Accommodation Unit of the local authority.
The conclusion of the report states the Ombudsman will request a six and 12-month update from the local authority regarding the progress of the implementation of the recommendations.