IHRC assists Traveller family access housing

Human rights law demands that the welfare of the child is the primary consideration

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) welcomes the provision of a house by a local authority to a lone parent and her three children, including two with special needs. The family, who are members of the Traveller community, recently moved into their new home and are said to be "delighted" after spending winter on the side of the road. The IHRC intervened on behalf of the woman and her children and, despite delays, commends the actions taken by the local authority to assist this family.

Mr Des Hogan, Acting Chief Executive of the IHRC said

"The IHRC warmly welcomes the fact that a resolution was found to the dreadful circumstances in which this family, and particularly these children, were living. It must be recalled that in all actions concerning children, such as in relation to the provision of housing, human rights law demands that the welfare of the child is the primary consideration. In this case, once the rights of the children concerned were highlighted to the local authority, there was a change in attitude towards the housing needs of the family overall. This led to a very positive outcome. This family can now live with some comfort and security, and the particular needs of the children can be met."

Mr Hogan continued:

"The IHRC has long been concerned about the human rights of members of the Traveller community. This case illustrates that Travellers still experience significant disadvantage in accessing accommodation of an adequate standard. The IHRC recently called on the Government to formally recognise Travellers as an ethnic minority group so that they can be accorded the human rights protections conferred on ethnic minorities under human rights principles. This case illustrates the very practical importance of the State taking this step. Traveller families should not have to live without access to basic services, such as sanitation, drinking water, and shelter, all of which in turn impacts on their ability to access education and medical care. The IHRC is delighted that its intervention brought about this positive outcome for this family. We commend the willingness of the local authority to engage with its obligations under human rights law and the actions it has taken to help this family."

Concerns about the welfare of the woman and her children were originally raised with the IHRC in March 2012 by a community group. The IHRC was informed that the local authority had threatened to forcibly remove the family from their roadside location and that no alternative place to live was being offered to the family. The woman and her children had been moved on a number of occasions previously, due to tensions between extended family members and local residents. The only available accommodation was an un-serviced halting site at the other end of the county in question.

The woman contacted the IHRC directly in April 2012 and applied for legal assistance to prevent her removal and to compel the local authority to consider her housing application, submitted in 2009. Of the three children residing with the woman, two have special medical and educational needs. One child has a significant hearing impairment and attended primary school locally. The school has specialist equipment to help the child’s participation in classes. The other child also required weekly attendance at a local hospital. The woman was extremely concerned that if moved by the local authority, her children’s access to education and medical care would be jeopardised.

The IHRC was concerned that the rights of this family, particularly those of the children, were not being respected. It contacted the local authority to seek an informal resolution of the matter. When no agreement was reached on the housing needs of the family, the IHRC granted legal assistance to the woman. In doing so, the IHRC sought to stop the family being removal from the side of the road, without appropriate alternative accommodation being available.

The local authority agreed not to move the family before it had considered the woman’s housing application and the particular needs of her children. A multi-disciplinary approach was then adopted by the local authority regarding the housing application. It held discussions with the health and social workers dealing with the family. On this basis, the commencement of legal proceedings by the woman was delayed to give the local authority an opportunity to consider the situation of the family.

In December 2012, the IHRC was informed that a house would possibly be offered to the woman. In due course the woman accepted the house and the family has since moved into their new home. The house is near to the school attended by the child with special needs and within easy reach of the medical care required by her other child.

 

ENDS/

 

For more information, please contact

Fidelma Joyce, IHRC Tel: 01 8589601 Mob: 087 783 4939

 

Notes to the Editor

Pursuant to section 10 of the Human Rights Commission Act, the Commission may grant legal assistance to a person in relation to:

(a) legal proceedings involving law and practice relating to the protection of human rights which a person has instituted or wishes to institute, and
(b) legal proceedings in the course of which a person relies or wishes to rely on such law and practice.

And where the legal assistance could not otherwise be obtained by the person.

 

 

 

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