Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Homeless Persons Data (Continued)
 Header Item Message from Seanad
 Header Item Personal Insolvency Bil 2012: From the Seanad (Resumed)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 79 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan] While aspects of homelessness are complex, we know that one simple solution is to provide more housing with support. In that respect, I am glad the Minister of State is here to take this Topical Issue and I hope she will have some insight into it.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I thank Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan for raising this issue. I have just come from Blessington Street, in her own constituency, where the Simon Community was opening a homeless facility for 12 people with support. I agree with her that good work is certainly being done by a number of voluntary housing associations.

It is never acceptable to have people sleeping on the streets. At this time of the year, more than any other, we seem to recognise a problem that endures throughout the year, every year. My Department's role involves providing a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in regard to the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless people rests with the housing authorities. The implementation of the homeless strategy at local and regional level is being carried out through the framework of statutory homelessness action plans adopted by housing authorities.

The stubbornly high number of rough sleepers in Dublin, as reported by Dublin City Council recently, reflects the gravity of the challenge facing the Government, the voluntary sector and other agencies in tackling the homelessness problem. I have sought to put in place real solutions for people who find themselves without a home. Investment of almost €50 million has been provided by central and local government in the provision of homeless services in 2012.

Rough sleeping is monitored closely countrywide but particularly in Dublin where the problem is most prevalent. The Dublin region's outreach team works on an ongoing basis to engage with all individuals sleeping rough, with the specific goal of moving people into accommodation through the Dublin City Council central placement service. The problem of rough sleeping is limited outside Dublin, with Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and Galway city councils reporting sufficient bed capacity on a nightly basis and that no one is sleeping rough due to the lack of a bed. The rough sleeper count for Cork, as reported recently in the media, does not appear to be consistent with the figures supplied by the Cork region's outreach team. Those figures report two to three rough sleepers in Cork.

Unfortunately, housing authorities consistently report the existence of a small number of entrenched rough sleepers who are unwilling to avail of accommodation. I take the Deputy's point that sometimes the accommodation may not be appropriate, particularly if there is drug taking involved and they are trying to avoid certain behaviour. This group has been particularly difficult to engage with due to mental health issues and aggressive behaviour. Outreach teams continue to try to provide solutions for this group and to encourage these persons to avail of accommodation. Where they refuse to do so, outreach teams ensure that they have sufficient food and bedding.

Progress has been made in the area of homelessness but unfortunately that is not enough. The recent Dublin figures are a stark reminder of the complexity of the homelessness issue and the difficulties in finding answers to it. It is not tolerable that anyone should sleep on the streets. It is not good enough and we cannot sit idly by.

One of my priorities is to ensure that homeless people have access to secure, stable and appropriate accommodation. Short-term interventions are not a long-term solution to homelessness. We need to continue to focus on long-term solutions to homelessness. I acknowledge, however, that we do need a level of short-term accommodation for urgent situations.

The community and voluntary sector has a critical role to play in dealing with homelessness, especially so in these difficult times. I am especially pleased to see the agencies engaging in housing and resettlement solutions, in line with Government policy on housing-first and housing-led initiatives, rather than managing people in emergency accommodation. Fostering a resettlement culture that promotes independent living is the key to tackling homelessness.

It is important that any initiative dealing with homelessness should be progressed in collaboration with the relevant regional homeless consultative fora. They were specifically established to allow the community and voluntary sector to work in partnership with the State sector in progressing initiatives to overcome homelessness, and to ensure that such initiatives do not disadvantage other persons in need of housing. These fora consist of individuals with particular expertise relevant to the implementation of homeless initiatives.

The annual provision of current funding from the Department should provide for sufficient bed capacity to accommodate all those in need of emergency accommodation nationwide. I acknowledge that, sadly, there are still people on the streets.

Deputy O'Sullivan sought figures and, as she knows, the rough sleepers count takes place regularly. There are also figures on homelessness from the Central Statistics Office that arise from the census, but they do not always tally with some of the data we get from local authorities. There is therefore some work to do in determining exactly who is homeless and who should be counted in the figures. I acknowledge that we need to do some more work on that.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Homeless people say they get to a point where they feel they are almost invisible and are of absolutely no value. As a result, their self esteem and dignity disappear. That is where the services are vital and do such great work.

About a month ago, I visited Brother Kevin in the Capuchin Day Centre in Bow Street, Dublin. He told me that his food bill for the year is €1.9 million. On top of that he also has to pay water and waste charges. He gets €350,000 from Dublin City Council and €100,000 from the HSE, so those figures do not add up. There is an increasing demand for food parcels and other services provided at the centre.

I welcome the Minister of State's answer which admitted that while progress has been made, it is unfortunately not enough. Everybody knows what to do but it is a question of joining up the dots. The people to talk to are those who are providing such services. On a practical basis, we must examine how much the service is taking in and what it has to give out. If the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government or the Department of Social Protection can bring any influence to bear on water and waste charges, it would give them so much more money that they can then spend on services for the homeless.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I thank Deputy O'Sullivan and fully agree with her that we need to talk regularly to those who provide such services. I again pay tribute to the Capuchins, the Simon Community, Focus Ireland and all the other voluntary bodies that do tremendous work in this area. We must ensure that we are all working together in partnership to deliver the best possible result for those who need these services. One of the things I most admire about the voluntary sector is that, as well as emergency accommodation and soup runs, they are also supporting people who have moved into either local authority or private rented accommodation. They thus ensure that such people can maintain those homes, which is a crucial element of their work.

Message from Seanad

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard Durkan): Seanad Éireann has passed the Equal Status (Amendment) Bill 2012, without amendment, and the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2012, without amendment.

Personal Insolvency Bil 2012: From the Seanad (Resumed)

The Dáil went into Committee to resume consideration of Seanad amendment No. 2:

Section 2: In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

" "electronic means" includes electrical, digital, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, biometric and photonic means of transmission of data and other forms of related technology by means of which data is transmitted;".

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard Durkan): Seanad amendments Nos. 3, 26, 27, 42, 44, 62, 64, 75, 76, 79, 116, 119, 128 and 131 are related and may be discussed together.

  Seanad amendment No. 3:

Section 2: In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“ “excludable debt”, in relation to a debtor, means any:
(a) liability of the debtor arising out of any tax, duty, levy or other charge of a similar nature owed or payable to the State;

(b) amount payable by the debtor under the Local Government (Charges) Act 2009;

(c) amount payable by the debtor under the Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011;

(d) liability of the debtor arising out of any rates due to the local authority (within the meaning of the Local Government Act 2001);

(e) debt or liability of the debtor in respect of moneys advanced to the debtor by the Health Service Executive under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009;

(f) debt due by the debtor to any owners’ management company in respect of annual service charges under section 18 of the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 or contributions due under section 19 of that Act;

(g) debt or liability of the debtor arising under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005;
“excluded debt”, in relation to a debtor, means any:
(a) liability of the debtor arising out of a domestic support order;

(b) liability of the debtor arising out of damages awarded by a court (or another competent authority) in respect of personal injuries or wrongful death arising from the tort of the debtor;

(c) debt or liability of the debtor arising from a loan (or forbearance of a loan) obtained through fraud, misappropriation, embezzlement or fraudulent breach of trust;

(d) debt or liability of the debtor arising by virtue of a court order made under the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005 or by virtue of a fine ordered to be paid by a court in respect of a criminal offence;”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard Durkan): Seanad amendment No. 4 has already been discussed with Seanad amendment No. 1.

  Seanad amendment No. 4:

Section 2: In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following:
“ “insolvency arrangement” means a Debt Relief Notice, Debt Settlement Arrangement or a Personal Insolvency Arrangement;”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard Durkan): Seanad amendments Nos. 5, 33, 38, 60, 114, 160 and 192 are related and may be discussed together.

  Seanad amendment No. 5:

Section 2: In page 11, subsection (1), between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:
“ “relevant pension arrangement” means:
(a) a retirement benefits scheme, within the meaning of section 771 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, for the time being approved by the Revenue Commissioners for the purposes of Chapter 1 of Part 30 of that Act;

(b) an annuity contract or a trust scheme or part of a trust scheme for the time being approved by the Revenue Commissioners under section 784 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997;

(c) a PRSA contract, within the meaning of section 787A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, in respect of a PRSA product, within the meaning of that section;

(d) a qualifying overseas pension plan within the meaning of section 787M of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997;

(e) a public service pension scheme within the meaning of section 1 of the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004;

(f) a statutory scheme, within the meaning of section 770(1) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, other than a public service pension scheme referred to in paragraph (e);

(g) such other pension arrangement as may be prescribed by the Minister, following consultation with the Ministers for Finance, Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform;”.

  Seanad amendment agreed to.


Last Updated: 06/05/2020 12:02:31 First Page Previous Page Page of 79 Next Page Last Page