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Local authority tight-lipped on ‘homeless hotels’

Dara Bradley

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City Hall is refusing to say what local hotels and B&Bs it pays for emergency accommodation to house the homeless.

Galway City Council has confirmed it spends on average €16,000 a month, or €4,000 a week, on B&Bs and hotels to house people who present as homeless.

But the local authority is remaining tight-lipped about which hotels or B&Bs in Galway it is paying the money to in return for emergency accommodation.

The Council said if it was made public which hotels and B&Bs it pays to house the homeless then it may impact on its ability to provide emergency accommodation in future.

The Galway City Tribune had requested the information under the Freedom of Information act.

When the Council refused to divulge the data, the decision was appealed but the Council’s FOI appeals officer has upheld the original decision to refuse access, and cites “commercially sensitive information” among the reasons.

Dermot Mahon, Senior Executive Officer, Corporate Services, who heard the appeal, said that “providing information such as this may negatively impact the accommodation providers from a financial/commercial point of view which in turn would negatively affect the ability of the local authority to source accommodation for people in need of housing.”

In his response rejecting the appeal, Mr Mahon added: “If it is known that Galway City Council provides details of the accommodation providers providing emergency accommodation services to Galway City Council, it may deter other accommodation providers from assisting Galway City Council with their accommodation needs in the future.

“Local authorities are already facing significant challenges in sourcing accommodation for vulnerable customers on the housing waiting list. Releasing information which may negatively impact the local authorities’ ability to source and temporarily house people in need of emergency accommodation would have a detrimental effect on the people who are in most need of our housing services.”

The City Council confirmed that some 724 people have been accommodated on a temporary emergency basis by the City Council, including in B&Bs and hotels. This figure is from January 1 to October 22 this year. It includes repeat admissions to services and includes, “all services funded by Galway City Council”.

The following is a detailed breakdown of the cost to the Council of providing temporary emergency accommodation to people presenting as homeless in the first 10 months of 2015.

January (€335); February (€1,110); March (€6,502); April (€8,341); May (€22,200); June (€18,650); July (€25,767); August (€27,244); September (€28,492); and October (€22,078).

Asked to explain how the City Council chooses the hotels and B&Bs, and whether it is put out to tender, a spokesperson said: “Emergency accommodation services are provided on behalf of Galway City Council by a number of voluntary bodies in the city under agreements and on an agency basis.

“The voluntary bodies source additional emergency housing beyond their own capacity to accommodate as needs present on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. The sourcing of this additional emergency accommodation is undertaken by the voluntary bodies.”

The Galway City Tribune has the right to appeal the decision of the Council with the Information Commissioner.

Connacht Tribune

Compliant Galwegians are keeping their distance

Francis Farragher

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Checkpoint...Garda warning for those who stray too far from home.

BOY racers, cyclists, gym users and young people attending house parties are among those in Galway who have been issued with Fixed Payment Notices (FPNs) for breaching the Covid-19 travel regulations over the past week.

However, Gardaí in Galway have reported ‘a very high-level of compliance’ from the general public as regards the travel restrictions that are a central part of the Level-5 ‘Stay Home – Stay Safe’ Covid campaign.

Over the weekend, Gardaí issued FPNs to so-called ‘boy racers’ in two separate cases on the Tuam Road outside Galway city and in the Craughwell area.

FPNs – involving a €100 on-the-spot fine – were also issued last week to a number of young people attending house parties in the Galway city area, after Gardaí had been called to the scene.

Two cyclists stopped in the Cornamona area of North Connemara last week, who were 19 kilometres from their homes – and outside their own county boundary – also faced Garda censure.

The cyclists weren’t from the same household; they weren’t wearing masks; and also, were in breach of social distancing regulations.

Gardaí also came across a case of a gym in South Galway being used by a number of people last week – also a breach of the Covid-19, Level-5 restrictions.

While Gardaí also received a number of calls about possible ‘pub-opening’ violations, on investigation, they found no sign of activity on the premises they checked out.

Galway Chief Garda Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Connacht Tribune that overall, there was ‘a very high level of compliance’ as regards the travel restrictions which was ‘very encouraging’.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Lessons learned on home-schooling

Denise McNamara

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Cathal Moore, principal of the Presentation Athenry.

Home-schooling is working better this time round with many teachers conducting live classes and more students actively engaging than when schools closed suddenly last March.

But virtual education is a poor substitute for the experience of the classroom with students sorely missing social interaction, according to teachers, while parents are still struggling to balance working from home with ensuring their children keep up with the school work.

The sooner that schools can reopen safely the better for everyone – although most agree that it’s looking more likely to be after mid-term than at the beginning of February.

“Everybody is in a better place this time round – schools, teachers, parents and students. Everybody expected to be back at school. It’s no secret last time we got two hours’ notice but this time round we’re better prepared,” remarks the principal of the Presentation Athenry, Cathal Moore.

The mixed secondary school is doing a mix of live and recorded classes as not every student has good broadband.

After the first week, there was feedback from students that they felt there was too much homework in addition to the virtual classes while teachers reported that they would prefer more live communication from their charges.

“It is more tiring – fatigue is definitely a factor when on a screen all day and if this goes on for a prolonged amount of time it will creep in for a growing number of students.”

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Hard-pressed hospitals down 450 staff over Covid

Dara Bradley

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More than 450 staff – including nurses at UHG and Portiuncula – are now out of work due to Covid, as staff shortages threaten the public hospitals’ ability to cope with the crisis.

The upsurge has seen UHG deal with a record number of Covid-19 patients, and the hospital had to escalate its surge capacity plan and add extra beds in ICU.

The latest CSO figures reveal that the first week of the New Year was Galway’s deadliest yet on the pandemic front, with five lives lost over those opening seven days of 2021.

That brought the total number of virus fatalities in Galway to 25, and it’s understood there have been further deaths locally since then, which will be confirmed later.

From March to the end of November there were 20 deaths notified in Galway, and no further deaths were recorded in all of December.

News of Galway’s deadliest week comes as local leaders in the HSE, Garda, and local government joined forces to warn that Covid-19 was still spreading rapidly in the community.

Nationally, between January 5 and 18, there were 263 Covid-19 deaths recorded, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which does not give a geographical breakdown. Of these deaths, 119 were hospitalised and 14 had been admitted to ICU.

The median age of all of Galway’s Covid fatalities is 83; the median age of the confirmed cases in Galway is 31 – the lowest of 26 counties.

See full story – and comprehensive Covid-19 coverage – in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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