Thursday, April 11, 2019

DESPITE seeing a rise by more than a third in the number of Traveller families in Kildare in the last four years, the local authority still managed to attain 93 percent of its accommodation targets over this period.

This came to light this week with the publication of the council’s draft Traveller Accommodation Plan (TAP) for 2019-24, which laid out that which the vouncil achieved over the last four years, and what its aims are for the next five.

Specifically, these are threefold: to enhance the current Traveller-specific housing stock, to provide more, and to develop enough temporary sites to enhance living standards of those without any homes.

The report showed that though the number of Traveller families in the county grew from 225 to 302 (+34%) between 2014-18, the council was still able to provide 71 of the 77 accommodation units promised with the last plan.

This equated to a population increase over this period from 813 people to 1,026.

“I’m pretty positive about it, it is fairly comprehensive. It’s a fairly serious attempt to address Traveller accommodation,” said PJ Dooley of the Travellers’ Support Group.

However, the only little fly in the plan’s ointment were the types of housing unit used, which showed the council housed Travellers way more in standard units (58) than in Traveller-specific ones (13).

“Targets in relation to the last plan were met with regard to regular houses, but we’d like to see Traveller specific targets met in this plan. The proof will be in its implementation [but] it looks good on paper,” said Mr Dooley.

The Kildare Nationalist asked whether he had any further difficulties with the council’s direction on this particular path.

“Not really,” said Mr Dooley, “like I said, it’s fine on paper. I can’t fault it now, but would need to read it [the draft plan] again in detail”.

Unsurprisingly, the slack between the 93% attained and the 100% aimed for seems to be taken up in the traditional way, with a slight increase in the number of families living on the roadside in the last year (from 12 to 15), and also in those declaring homeless (from 14 to 19).

In other sectors, the number of Traveller families living in private rented homes has decreased from 106 to 80 between 2014-18, while the number accommodated in social housing over the same period has doubled from 56 to 112.

“Not as good as it should be, but striving to get better,” said Cllr Aoife Breslin, a member of the consultative committee.

“This is a progression, because it’s a hard piece of work to be done…but we’re happy we’re moving in the right direction…but like anything in life, you could do better,” she honourably conceded, before highlighting the ongoing difficulties with the halting site in Newbridge.

“The Tankardsgarden issue, we really need to move that forward. That’s being going on over 15 years. It’s gone through three councils now. We’ve moved it further this time, but there’s still a few hold-ups. It will be fantastic when it’s finished Cllr Breslin declared.

According to the draft plan, the delivery of eight mobile home bays here has been approved and will be done by 2020, to be allocated on a “phased basis”.

The 2016 Census put the national Traveller count at just under 31,000 (0.7% of the general population), with more than three quarters of living in urban areas.

In relation to age breakdown, 60 percent of Travellers are under 25 years old, and almost a third (31.9%) of those under 30 were married.

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