Gaffe sees mum and kids who fled domestic violence forced to sleep on bloody mattresses

by Sylvia Pownall

CHILDREN fleeing domestic violence were forced to sleep on blood-stained mattresses and were homeless for two years due to a council blunder, a report has found.

The mother and her children were “erroneously” referred to a housing service for new communities by Fingal County Council even though she had legal residency and had been on the housing list for seven years.

An investigation by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office found the “bureaucratic nature” of amending applications for social housing following domestic violence represents “undesirable administrative practice”.

OCO director of investigations Nuala Ward said that the family had become homeless after they took the “brave step” of leaving a situation of domestic violence.

Refuge
“They were initially placed in a women’s refuge before living in homeless accommodation, including B&Bs and hotels, which were not at all suitable for normal family living,” she said.

“They slept on blood-stained mattresses, they were crammed into rooms with four sets of bunkbeds, they were placed in accommodation where they were exposed to the mother’s ex-partner or his friends, and like every other family living in B&Bs and hotels, the mother could not cook for her children or allow them to have friends over.”

Ms Ward said mistakes were made by Fingal County Council “and while we cannot say for sure that these errors delayed the family being housed, it did cause stress for the family and was not in the children’s best interests”.

The large family left a domestic violence situation in 2013 and they were referred to the new communities’ unit – which was practice at the time across all four Dublin local authorities with anyone who presented as homeless and was not Irish.

Eligible
Fingal County Council acknowledged the woman was eligible for social housing and that her application should have been dealt with in the same way as an Irish person’s.

OCO said housing complaints increased from four to five per cent in 2016 with a rise in the number of cases where children’s best interests were ignored.

Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, said: “The housing complaints we receive show clearly that children are not seen as individuals who have rights that must be respected.

“Children are merely an add-on to parents or guardians in housing policy and legislation.”

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