Issued by Young Knocknaheeny

Wednesday, October 23, 2019.

Almost 50% of families in Cork child and parent programme report housing-related problems

Homelessness, housing insecurity, and substandard housing has major impact on families and child development

A new report on homelessness, overcrowding and substandard housing in Cork city has identified housing problems to be adding to poor child development outcomes.

The report by the Young Knocknaheeny (YK) Area Based Childhood programme found that almost 50% of the families in its Infant Mental Health Home Visiting Programme reported housing-related issues, sub-standard housing conditions, homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness.

Colette Kelleher, Pat Corbett, Katherine Harford and Tracie Lane pictured at the launch of the Young Knocknaheeny Report 2019 – the experiences of families with housing issues engaged with the Young Knocknaheeny programme, at Nano Nagle Place in Cork city. Pic: Diane Cusack
Katherine Harford, Colette Kelleher, Youth Knocknaheeny, and Dr. Cathal O’Connell, Applied Social Sciences, UCC, pictured at the launch of the Young Knocknaheeny Report 2019 – the experiences of families with housing issues engaged with the Young Knocknaheeny programme, at Nano Nagle Place in Cork city. Pic: Diane Cusack
Grace Walsh, Youth Knocknaheeny, and Anne Horgan, HSE, pictured at the launch of the Young Knocknaheeny Report 2019 – the experiences of families with housing issues engaged with the Young Knocknaheeny programme, at Nano Nagle Place in Cork city. Pic: Diane Cusack

Impact of homelessness on family support programme

Young Knocknaheeny Manager Katherine Harford said that the potential positive impacts of YK’s home visiting programme – are being affected by the overwhelming impact which housing-related circumstances have on families. 

“Between January 2018 and January 2019, a total of 60 families engaged in the YK home visiting Programme and 29 of those (including 60 children) reported homelessness, overcrowding, sub-standard housing or housing-related issues.

“Because of this, much of the support provided by the home visiting programme is spent navigating, advocating and liaising for families at interagency level in relation to housing, welfare and health services. 

“Young Knockneheey is concerned that for many families poor housing conditions undermines their children’s development, and also creates a barrier for other family and child services trying to intervene and support them.”

The report also documents the lived experiences of families in four detailed case studies and a Practitioner case study. The Practitioner study in particular highlights how all-consuming housing problems are.

“If a family is at-risk of homelessness or experiencing housing-related issues, that becomes the most over-whelming and prominent piece of work with that family. All of your energy becomes about housing. The service that we are working to deliver, to support the relationship between child and parent, is put on hold as the parents are overwhelmed trying to navigate housing issues, or avoid homelessness,” the Practitioner said. 


Katherine Harford said the report highlights the urgent need to seriously address housing challenges, with both long and immediate term responses.

“A large programme of high-quality home building, together with high-quality community design and supports, are core recommendations of the report. Having the security of a home within vulnerable communities is fundamental for child and family programmes to be able to intervene and best improve the parent-infant relationship and child development outcomes.

“Other recommendations in the report focus on taking a more child-focused approach in the immediate term to responding to homelessness, housing insecurity, over-crowding and substandard housing.

Holistic Impact on Parents

In the report parents tell how their health is worsened due to their housing situation.

“The experience of homelessness, overcrowding and substandard housing is deeply traumatic, and compounds financial, physical and mental health difficulties and family circumstances. When a family experiences housing difficulties, the potential to develop strong, attuned relationships between parents and infants is negatively impacted.”

Life-long effect on Children

Parental worsened health and wellbeing also has a knock on effect on their children resulting in a ‘toxic stress’ that impacts on the child and prevents them from achieving their developmental potential. 

“The findings also show that children are experiencing health difficulties such as respiratory illness due to damp and mould in unsuitable accommodation.

“Children’s access to schooling is interrupted and their ability to engage fully in education is disrupted as a result of factors such as a long commute to school, lack of quality sleep, poor nutrition, as well as inadequate space, privacy, quality environment for study or family time.

“Children do not have adequate space to play. This impacts on their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development and further compounds the risks to both physical and mental health,” according to the report.

Chairperson of Young Knocknaheeny Interagency Consortium Group, Senator Colette Kelleher

said that at a local level there is need to recognise that those experiencing housing issues very often have established strong relationships with local services, such as the Young Knocknaheeny ABC Programme – and part of a response is to support those organisations.

“We need to support these everyday services by providing them with right information and personnel with the knowledge to help all involved to navigate the complex and traumatic situations. Equally, this report highlights the need for wider collaboration and partnership working across servicers. Collaboration, both locally and nationally, will allow services; statutory, community and voluntary alike; to do their work usefully.”

Further recommendations include

  • All frontline staff require an increased understanding of the significant traumatic impact of housing circumstances and conditions, on the immediate and long term outcomes for children and families.
  • An up-to-date resource/information pack should be made available to community, education and charity groups about local housing and homeless services, to include the process of registering as homeless and seeking hotel accommodation, welfare, rights and additional supports.
  • The appointment of locally based support workers with specific expertise in housing policy, processes and services who can empathetically and practically support families
  • Local statutory, voluntary and community services should build on what works, to strongly co-ordinate, commit and work together consistently, to buffer the worst impacts of homelessness and housing issues on families and to ensure that children are afforded the best opportunity.

The report includes four insightful case studies which show four different experiences including:

  • From Private Rented Housing to Emergency Accommodation
  • Overcrowded and Unsuitable Housing
  • Poorly Maintained and Unsuitable Social Housing
  • Family in Receipt of Housing Assistance Payment

More information at – The report Born and Raised into Homelessness, Overcrowding and Substandard Housing can be downloaded here:

Further Media Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.


Homelessness – National Context

In August 2019, a total of 10,338 people were classed as homelessness in Ireland, 3,848 were children This number does not include the ‘hidden homeless’ which Focus Ireland regards as people living in squats or ‘sofa surfing’ with friends.

YK also considers those living with friends and family in overcrowded and sub-standard conditions, not by choice, as hidden homeless also.

More than one in three people living in emergency accommodation is a child. The number of homeless families increased by 178% since June 2015. In August 2019, a total of 1,726 families accessed emergency accommodation across Ireland. 122 families and 283 dependants were homeless in Ireland’s south-west region.