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Written Answers - Social Welfare Code

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 247.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  if she will outline her role in the delivery of rent supplement to be paid to private landlords. [6359/12]

[435]

 248.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  the amount that was spent on rent supplement paid to private tenants in each of the years 2010 and 2011. [6360/12]

 249.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  the amount she hopes to save on rent supplement paid to tenants this year. [6361/12]

 250.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  if she would consider putting in place a suitability interview system before tenants are given the go-ahead to lease a dwelling using rent supplement. [6362/12]

 251.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  if she would consider setting a cap on the percentage of households in an estate which can be in receipt of rent supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6363/12]

 252.  Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds  asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  if she intends to move from paying rent supplement to tenants to paying it directly to landlords; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6364/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 to 252, inclusive, together.

The purpose of rent supplement is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation, whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme is intended as a temporary income support payment and is not designed to be a medium to long term housing support or a permanent solution to a person’s housing needs. In order to qualify for a payment under the rent supplement scheme a person must satisfy all of the conditions of the scheme including that the accommodation is reasonably suited to the residential and other needs of the person. Expenditure for 2010 and 2011 was €516 million and €503 million respectively. Provision of some €437 million has been made for the 2012 scheme.

Budget 2012 has provided for two main changes to rent supplement from 1 January 2012. First, an increase in the weekly minimum contribution payable by all tenants under the rent supplement scheme from €24 per week to €30 per week with a higher rate minimum contribution of €35 per week for coupled households. Secondly, the introduction of new maximum rent limits.

As the Deputy will be aware the community welfare service (CWS), and the community welfare officers providing it, transferred formally to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) from 1 October 2011. The service and the staff are now part of the DSP. As with all statutory schemes, the Minister has no function in relation to the determination of individual entitlements.

In general there is no limit or restriction on the proportion or number of people that may receive rent supplement in an area. However Section 25 of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007 provides that a payment of rent supplement can be refused in respect of accommodation which is situated in an area notified to the Minister for Social Protection by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, as being an area of regeneration.

Rent supplement payments can, at the request of the tenant and with the agreement of the Department, be paid directly to the landlord. If the Department were to introduce a system whereby all rent supplement payments were to be made directly to landlords the efficiency of the scheme would be significantly affected. For example, the Department would potentially [436]have to create a formal relationship with some 96,000 additional clients, the landlords. This would involve greater complexity and significant resources to deal with a new set of third parties.

It would not be an effective use of resources to have departmental staff negotiating rental agreements for those with a short term need who generally enter the scheme with an existing tenancy agreement in place and leave again when they re-enter the workforce.

The Government has effectively two initiatives to deal with long term reliance on rent supplement. The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) is in operation since 2004 and the new Housing Policy Initiative as announced by my colleagues the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Housing and Planning on 16 June 2011.

Both initiatives give the local authorities specific responsibility for meeting the long term housing needs of people receiving rent supplement. Latest figures show that over 37,700 rent supplement tenancies have now been transferred from rent supplement to RAS and other social housing options since its inception.


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