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Written Answers - Homeless Strategy

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 417.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan  the actions he is undertaking to tackle homelessness here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16681/12]

 418.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan  the number of persons he estimates are homeless here; if he will provide a breakdown by city and town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16682/12]

 419.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan  the number of local authorities that currently have a full-time homeless officer; the number that had such a position in 2007; the number of such positions that are vacant; if he is satisfied that there are adequate resources and supports at local authority level to assist in tackling homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16683/12]

 420.  Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris  asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Philip Hogan Zoom on Philip Hogan  the number of persons in his Department that work in the area of addressing homelessness here; the projects they are working on in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16685/12]

[876]Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 417 to 420, inclusive, together.

The current homeless strategy The Way Home — A Strategy to Address Adult Homelessness 2008-2013 sets out Government policy on tackling homelessness and has a number of key aims including: preventing homelessness; eliminating the need to sleep rough; eliminating long-term occupation of emergency accommodation; providing long-term accommodation solutions; ensuring effective services; and better co-ordinated funding arrangements.

While the current Strategy is fundamentally sound some key targets have not been achieved and the Programme for Government is committed to reviewing it and to adopting a ‘housing led’ approach to homelessness. Work now underway on updating the strategy is almost complete and the review will take account of demands on existing housing, assess how best to continue providing services and seek to ensure more effective prevention strategies.

There is no single solution to increasing the level of social housing supply for the homeless and maximising delivery will require flexible and diverse approaches. The initial emphasis is necessarily on the Dublin region, where there is a concentration of those accessing homelessness services, by moving away from the current over reliance on emergency accommodation provision to a more permanent accommodation solution to be achieved through a number of measures including directly linking the provision of funding with specific targets and outcomes; making better use of the existing available accommodation units in the local authorities and in the voluntary sector; additional social housing provision through acquisitions and remedial works/upgrading of vacant local authority housing stock and a leasing programme; ongoing engagement with NAMA to secure properties; targeted use of the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS); an enhanced role for the private rental sector; better co-ordination with the voluntary and cooperative housing sector; and the establishment of Homeless Action Teams across all regions.

My Department’s funding provision for homeless accommodation and related services for 2012 is €50 million, which together with 10% provided from housing authorities’ own resources, brings the total available funding to €55.55 million. This level of funding means that there will be no reduction in the provision of essential frontline support services.

The National Implementation Plan for the Homeless Strategy also provides for the development of a more devolved allocation-based system for the provision of accommodation-related funding to housing authorities with emphasis on increased decision making at local level, in lieu of the existing individual project based arrangements, to improve overall efficiency, value for money and greater local decision making in homeless services.

A protocol which sets outs arrangements and responsibilities for delegation of Section 10, Housing Act 1988 funding between my Department and Dublin City Council in relation to the provision of ongoing revenue funding for homeless accommodation and related service costs has already been put in place. This will be extended nationally to the other regions later this year. The numbers of persons homeless on a city and town basis is very difficult accurately to quantify. The Housing Agency’s Housing Needs Assessment 2011 report breaks down the categories of housing need, including in respect of homelessness, for all 88 housing authorities nationwide and is available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

However as the Housing Needs Assessment only counts homeless persons where an application has been made to a housing authority in September 2011 it was decided that details on the extent of homelessness in the Dublin region, where numbers are most pronounced, would be reviewed and updated using the now fully operational Pathway Accommodation and Support System (PASS) and crosschecked against each of the Dublin local authorities housing [877]management data systems to give an accurate figure of the known homeless population in Dublin.

Following extensive cross checking and quality control to remove duplications and ensure accuracy of all data entries the confirmed extent of homelessness in the Dublin region as at September 2011 was 1,891 persons. PASS, which commenced operation in the Dublin region in 2011 is being extended nationally on a phased basis with work currently underway in the regions comprising the County and City authorities of Cork, Kerry, Louth, Monaghan and Cavan. It is intended that the PASS system will be operational across the entire country by end 2012. The PASS system will in future provide good quality, timely, data on homelessness nationally as an evidence base for all homelessness services.

My Department does not routinely collect data on the number of housing authorities that have a full-time homelessness officer, the number that had such a position in 2007, or the number of such positions that are currently vacant. Homelessness functions within authorities around the country are carried out variously by general housing staff, social workers or specific homelessness officers. In many local authorities there will be more than one such person employed in this area and across various disciplines. I am, however, satisfied that there are adequate resources and supports available to all local authorities to enable them effectively deal to with homelessness.

Within my Department policy development and oversight responsibilities are part of the social inclusion function located principally in the Planning and Housing Division. The number of officers assigned to this function currently stands at 9 and this is kept under ongoing review having regard to operational requirements and necessary restrictions on public service numbers.

The Homeless Unit promotes and oversees the development and implementation of policy, programmes and action to address homelessness and related accommodation needs, including recoupment of funding to local authorities for accommodation and related services. The unit also supports the parliamentary process and the operation of Government business in respect of the Homeless Strategy and related matters. Key projects being worked on at present include the ongoing review of the homeless strategy and the devolution of funding to the nine regional Joint Homeless Consultative Fora.


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