Ombudsman for Children investigates living conditions of children living in halting site

In 2018 a Traveller advocacy group contacted the Ombudsman for Children concerned about the living conditions at a local authority halting site. The site had 66 children living in it along with their families. Eleven families from the halting site made complaints about the living conditions which included rodent infestations; overcrowding; inadequate sanitation; illegally dumping near the halting site; inadequate waste disposal; inadequate heating systems and a high rate of childhood illness.

Staff from the Ombudsman for children's office visited the site on three separate occasions. The staff observed that the site contained only the most basic conditions and that there were 140 people using the toilets and washing facilities that were intended for only 40 people.

The investigation found that the local authority did not consider the best interests of the children living in the halting site. The local authority failed to maintain the halting site and provide adequate toilets and washing facilities. They also failed to provide proper waste management and to manage pest infestations. The local authority had also failed to provide safe access to and from the halting site and a safe play area for the children.

The investigation further found that the local authority did not keep proper records and that housing applications were either incomplete or not processed. This resulted in some families missing out on being assigned a house or from moving up the housing list. Due to poor administration, the halting site was overcrowding.

The Ombudsman for Children recommended that health and safety concerns must be addressed. It was recommended that mobile units are connected to plumbing and sewerage, that fire hazards are removed, that children are provided with a safe passage to school, that a waste management system is put in place, and for the management of the rodent infestations.

The local authority should also provide an outline of how they propose to address any future needs of the residents on the halting site. It was further recommended that the housing applications are reviewed without any delay and that the Local Authority should provide an easier complaint process that is more accessible for the residents and one that is more efficient.

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