ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Homelessness(Barnardos, 2016) BarnardosThe number of families and children experiencing homelessness in Ireland today is the highest since records began. The latest Department of Housing figures reveal that more than 1,100 families are homeless, including 2,363 children. Many families are spending months living in hotels, B&Bs or other emergency accommodation. While the longitudinal research required to fully understand the impact of homelessness on children has not yet been undertaken, we know that inadequate, unsafe or insecure housing has serious repercussions. The impacts on children are far reaching, affecting a child’s mental and physical health, social and emotional development, education and their key relationships. There is no question this is a serious crisis and that children are the most vulnerable victims. In the first article in this issue of ChildLinks on homelessness and its impact on children and families, Barnardos looks at some of the reasons for this crisis and makes recommendations as to the multilevel response required – family-friendly emergency accommodation in the short term, greater security for medium-term housing and, ultimately, providing more long-term homes. Women who find themselves homeless during pregnancy are particularly vulnerable, often lacking the type of support available to most new mums. An article from Anew outlines the support the organisation offers to women during and after pregnancy, providing an accommodation service to women who find themselves homeless as well as counselling and life skills classes. After the birth and the initial supports have been given, women are then helped in moving on to live independently with their children. The next article discusses the relationship between homelessness and domestic violence, drawing on selected narratives from women who participated in a qualitative study of women’s homelessness in Ireland. Women’s economic dependence on their partners emerged strongly in the narratives as well as the fear that their children would be taken into State care if they sought help at a domestic violence refuge. Focus Ireland, in an article about their Family Homeless Action Team, describes supporting families experiencing homelessness during their time in emergency accommodation and assisting them to move on to stable accommodation. In Dublin, almost 75% of families experiencing homelessness are residing in commercial hotels with many families staying for long periods in single hotel rooms, without access to cooking or washing facilities. Given the scale of the current crisis, and the number of families who have to be accommodated on a nightly basis, families are often residing considerable distances from the schools their children are attending. Families are also removed from their personal support structures, such as other family members. The final article in this issue is another from Barnardos which looks at the experiences of one family and gives a worrying picture of the difficulties being faced. It is clear that stronger action is needed from Government to relieve the pressure of the housing crisis on families. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Barnardos' School Costs Survey(Barnardos, 2016) BarnardosAs we begin the new academic year, parents across the country are facing the high costs of educating their children. Education is not free in Ireland. That is the overwhelming message from parents who took the 2016 Barnardos’ School Costs Survey. For more than a decade, thousands of parents have been using the Barnardos’ School Costs Survey to speak out about the high cost of sending their children to school and this year is no different. Ireland’s education system is lauded by Government as free to access; but the responses to this year’s survey tell us otherwise. Under-investment in schools during prosperity and cuts during the recession have left parents shouldering the cost of an underfunded system. It is a burden many parents can ill afford. Parents told us they are scrimping on household bills, forgoing necessities and even going into debt to pay for their child to go to school in Ireland’s supposedly free education system. No child or family should have to suffer in order to access education. The Government has the power and the means to reduce the burden on parents and Barnardos is committed to making this happen. The first article in this issue of ChildLinks examines the results of Barnardos School Costs Survey, looking at the costs of school books, extra school fees and contributions, and school transport. It outlines Barnardos’ recommendations to Government to ensure that all children are on a level playing field with the same opportunities as their peers. The article that follows focuses on children making the move from preschool to primary school and the need to support this transition, which can be stressful and daunting for both young children and their parents. The third article gives an overview of a study that looks at the understanding and implementation of Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework by early years educators. The Nurture Programme – Infant Health and Wellbeing is a programme that has been developed with the aim that every parent in Ireland receives the best possible advice, information and support from conception to the child’s third birthday so that each child gets the best possible start in life. An article from Programme Manager Francis Chance outlines the rationale for the Nurture Programme, the policy context for the programme and some of the key developments planned. The next article looks at the changing expectations of the role of fathers, who now often share in the caring role for their children and are fully involved in their lives. The article looks at this involvement from a child’s perspective through a series of interview questions asking children what they like to do with their fathers and why. The final article in this issue looks at the New Children First Act 2015 and the role of the Early Years Child Protection Programme in preparing the sector for new legislation. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Child Care Regulations (the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016)(Barnardos, 2016) BarnardosThere have been a number of welcome developments in the early years sector in Ireland in recent months. The new Child Care Regulations (the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016), prepared to underpin a number of key reforms to the sector to improve quality standards, came into effect in Ireland on a phased basis on 30th June 2016. The new regulations provide for pre school services, that is, those services catering for children under the age of six who are not attending primary school. There are a number of changes from the previous regulations, most notably in the requirements around registration, policies and procedures, management and staff, records and qualifications among others. These new demands will make services safer for children and will be reassuring for parents. One notable omission from the new Regulations, however, is that there is no mention of a Child Protection policy among the list of mandatory policies, which means Tusla is not inspecting early years services for child protection policies. This is a serious issue, given that the age of the children involved, some of whom are not yet verbal, makes them particularly vulnerable. Another development in the early years sector in Ireland is the commencement of the education-focused inspections in pre-schools participating in the government’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. These inspections are the topic of the first article in this issue of ChildLinks from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, which highlights the acknowledgement in the Early-Years Education-focused Inspection Quality Framework that play is central to children’s learning and development. Placing play firmly on the agenda will support the development of sustainable pedagogies of play in the early years. In the second article in this issue, Jenna Russell from Barnardos Brighter Futures in Cork describes her experience working with children who struggle with behaviour challenges and the support these children need to participate in the routine and benefit from the curriculum. Parents of children with behaviour issues will also need support and advice to understand the strategies used in the early years setting and how best to ensure the strategies used are consistent and effective in the home environment. A second article from Barnardos highlights the impact on children living with parental substance misuse and the importance of being open and willing to discuss the issue. An article from the National Childhood Network outlines the Healthy Ireland Smart Start Programme. The programme covers a range of topics such as health promotion; emotional well-being/literacy; physical activity; nutrition/healthy eating; oral health; and health and safety. The aim of the programme is to build the capacity of pre-school practitioners working with children aged 3–5 years to promote healthy lifestyle practices in children and families. Other articles in this issue look at the effect of labour market activation on child wellbeing and the impact of children’s transition from pre-school to formal schooling on schools and early years practitioners.