Young children living in hotels in Dublin due to homelessness are struggling to learn to crawl or walk because of a lack of space, according to new research.

Latest figures show there are 10,378 people homeless and living in emergency accommodation, with 3,794 of them are children.

A study of 16 formerly homeless families was carried out by the Royal Holloway University London and commissioned by Dublin City Council.

It found that the destructive impact of living in hotels for extended periods on children is particularly acute.

The study found that daily routines were disrupted as families could not cook their own food, do their laundry, or take their children to school without expensive time consuming journeys.

It also said not being able to cook had health implications due to lack of nutrition and reduced family social time.

The report highlighted children's stunted development, including toddlers not learning to crawl or walk due to lack of space.

One two-year-old's speech had not developed since moving into a hotel, despite previously meeting developmental targets, which a behavioural specialist believed may be a consequence of homelessness.

All of the families interviewed had become homeless as a consequence of eviction from the private rental sector, family breakdown or a combination of both.

They had all spent significant periods living in hotels waiting on permanent accommodation, with one family having spent three years in a hotel.

The lead author of the report said the traumatic experience of homelessness cannot be easily erased.

Dr Nowicki said the main finding was the impact on the children's physical and mental wellbeing, particularly in relation to not reaching development goals.

She said one participant said her child had been hitting all her development targets, up until they became homeless and had to live in a hotel.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs today, Director of Advocacy at homeless charity Focus Ireland, Mike Allen, said homelessness is a deeply traumatic experience for children and their parents and has the potential to have lifelong consequences. 

Mr Allen said it was important as a country we address this issue from the perceptive of children. 

He said legislation passed by the Oireachtas to guide local authorities in responding to homelessness is blind in relation to children. 

He said the scale of the homeless crisis is leading to a concentration at policy level on numbers and he said this overlooks the reality experienced by homeless families.

Mr Allen said it results in families who are suffering the most being left behind and unable to access private rented accommodation.

The Manager of Focus Ireland's family support team, Niamh Lambe, told the committee that 91% of the homeless children on the charity's case load are waiting for a child support worker.

She said these workers are specially trained to work with children through the trauma of homelessness.

Additional reporting: Aisling Kenny