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Ensuring that the Built Environment Enhances Child Well-Being in Social Housing

Research Staff

Prof. Sheila Greene, Ms. Liz Kerrins

About the Project


The National Children's Strategy aims to ensure that 'Children will benefit from a built and natural environment which supports their physical and emotional well being'. The aim of the study is to explore how two local governments and authorities are implementing the objectives and actions contained in the National Children's Strategy.

The importance of the built environment to child well being is noted in the international literature, where secure physical environments have been found to contribute to children's emotional security and sense of identity (Bartlett, 2002). Providing opportunities for play and leisure within design and development also supports child well being, while child health and safety can be compromised by road design. These issues highlight some of the opportunities and threats that the built environment can pose for children.

This study is located in the context of rapid social change, area based regeneration, the development of major transport infrastructure and changes in housing policy, all of which have served to alter the built environment for children in Ireland. While there has been sustained economic growth in Ireland, children living in social housing continue to experience poverty and disadvantage.

What does the research focus on?

The focus of this enquiry is children (aged up to 18 years) in low-income families in social housing within the context of area based regeneration, new social housing build, the Rental Accommodation Scheme, and dwellings provided through Part V of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

The particular aspects of the built environment to be considered are: apartment living for families; play spaces, facilities and equipment; leisure/recreational spaces; public space; traffic flow; safe walking and cycling.

What does the research involve?

The research involves working with two urban local authorities — Galway City Council and South Dublin County Council — which are local authorities with large populations of young people and areas of disadvantage.

The research methodology consists of:

  • A literature review providing an overview of policy trends and best practice in Ireland and internationally in the development and implementation of planning for children in relation to the urban built environment, particularly relating to children living in poverty and on low incomes
  • A documentary review, examining the policy documents of Galway City and South Dublin County Councils for evidence of the inclusion of children's preferences and requirements and the specific aims, objectives and actions in the areas of the built environment on which this study is focused.
  • Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, including: Strategic Policy Committee members; Community and Enterprise staff; Directors of Housing, Planning, Environment etc.; Social Inclusion Unit/RAPID staff; Relevant Community and Voluntary Groups; Dept of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Comhairle na nÓg delegates.

Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).