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 Header Item Constitutional Amendments (Continued)
 Header Item Homeless Persons Data

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 991 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin] The reason is that we have been given three separate deadlines by the Minister's Department for when that text will be available. The latest was in the communication the Minister just mentioned in which we were told we would have it by the autumn. We were told we would have it by the summer just gone and by the previous summer. Each of those deadlines has been missed. As a consequence of the delay on the Minister's end, two things are happening. He is eroding the confidence of committee members, whose opposition as he claims to the current wording of the text may not continue, and he is also undermining confidence from the trade union sector which the Department is in negotiations with about the creation of the single utility. The constant delay in getting the Minister's amendments published is sending a clear signal to them that he is not serious about this or the commitment he has given them and ourselves in writing.

We have given the Minister two and a half years to come up with his amendments. All we are asking for are the amendments. I do not accept that it takes two and a half years to produce the alternative wording the Minister is saying is required.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I call Deputy Pringle, and then I will let the Minister back in.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Deputy Ó Broin outlined the situation and the difficulty that is there. It is two and a half years. If the Minister was serious about this, he could bring them forward and let the committee decide on them. That would bring it to a head. I do not believe that the Department is serious about it, and that is a problem.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I call the Minister for his final comments.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy We are deadly serious about it. Where is the Deputy's wording? Where is his amendment?

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin We have given the Minister our wording.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I gave the Deputy the 14 tests.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Could I speak without interruption, please?

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin The Minister wants to change it. He has to-----

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy It is always the case that when Deputies do not like the answer, they interrupt.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin We just want the Minister’s amendments. Has a referendum Bill ever taken this long to produce? The Minister is breaking a record.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Can we hear the Minister without interruption, please?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Acting Chairman. I published 14 tests and I gave them to Deputy Ó Broin. He is aware of them. He did not come back with one change in language that would help us to address the concerns of those 14 tests.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin That is the Minister’s responsibly and the Attorney General’s. That is disingenuous.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I am telling the Deputy that we are working on it. I asked him for help. I said let us try to do this by consensus. The Deputy has not bothered. We have been working hard. The Deputy knows how complex it is.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin I do not have an Attorney General in my back pocket.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy Do not put this on us. The Deputy’s party has plenty of legal advice because he is always talking about it. He knows how difficult this is.

Deputy Eoin Ó Broin: Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin Did any referendum Bill take two and half years?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy If it was so simple, the Deputy would have found the wording.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I allowed the Deputy to ask a supplementary question, although I did not have to do that. Please respect the Chair. That is all I ask. We will move on to the next question because we might make more progress. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett who has 30 seconds.

Homeless Persons Data

 47. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy if he has read the recent report on the effect of homelessness on the development of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51871/19]

 50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the extent to which the number of families on local authority housing lists and deemed to be homeless for any reason; his plans to meet their housing requirements in the short and medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51827/19]

 52. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the average length of time families are being kept in family hubs before being accommodated in housing; the number of exits from family hubs in each year; the reason for the exits, for example, housed, exit into HAP tenancy, exited homeless services, housed in voluntary housing body or local authority housing and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51109/19]

 53. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the number of children in emergency accommodation in each local authority area; the average period of time spent by children in accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51864/19]

 93. Deputy Michael Harty Information on Michael Harty Zoom on Michael Harty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy the way in which he plans to respond to the deterioration in the number of children without a permanent home (details supplied). [51276/19]

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett There are many unacceptable manifestations of the housing and homelessness emergency, which the Minister's policies have generated, but the most upsetting is the plight of children in emergency accommodation or who are homeless. A number of reports from the Royal College of Physicians and from housing NGOs have exposed the shocking extent to which children in homeless accommodation are being neglected and that their development is being seriously affected. What is the Minister going to do to protect these children?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 50, 52, 53 and 93 together.

Rebuilding Ireland is designed to significantly increase the supply of social housing by 50,000 homes in the period to 2021, to double the output of overall housing to at least 25,000 homes per year by 2020, support all tenure types - social, private, rental - and tackle homelessness comprehensively. In 2018, 8,000 new social homes were delivered nationally, and this year, a further 10,000 new social homes will be added to the stock. Delivery will increase again to more than 11,000 homes next year and 12,000 in 2021. In fact, next year will see the delivery of 7,500 new build social housing homes, the highest level this century. The Housing Agency has provided my Department with a report on the summary of social housing assessments, SSHA, for 2019. The report shows that 68,693 households were qualified and in need of social housing support in June of this year. That is a reduction of 25% over the last three years and a trend which is expected to continue in the coming years. The reduction reflects the significantly increased level of social housing activity being delivered through Rebuilding Ireland under which more than 90,000 households across the country have had their housing needs met from 2016 to the end of the third quarter of this year. In 2018 alone, just over 27,100 households were supported, which was 6% ahead of the overall target for the year, and we are aiming again to support more than 27,000 households this year.

Supporting families experiencing homelessness is a priority for the Government, for me and my Department, in particular. My Department continues to work closely and proactively with the local authorities and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that we provide the necessary supports to deliver homes for all the families currently experiencing homelessness. For so long as any individual or family experiences homelessness, I am determined to ensure that the most appropriate emergency accommodation is available.

In regard to family homelessness, my Department is working with the local authorities to support the introduction of family hubs, 30 of which are already in operation, providing almost 690 spaces for family accommodation. Local authorities and their service delivery partners work with families in the hubs to secure a home, with an objective to do so within a six-month period. However, in some cases it can take longer due to the housing requirements or preferences of a family. The monthly reports submitted by the local authorities to my Department do not currently provide detailed information on the length of time spent by families in emergency accommodation. However, the latest information drawn from a separate local authority performance reporting mechanism shows that 38% of adults in emergency accommodation at the end of September 2019 had been there for fewer than six months. Additional data provided by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, at the end of September 2019-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy You will have a further opportunity.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy There are a number of questions grouped.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy We are almost out of time.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I understood that when we grouped questions, my reply could be-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I want to let Deputy Boyd Barrett in to ask a supplementary question. You will have an opportunity to finish. Is that all right?

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank the Acting Chairman.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Deputy Boyd Barrett has one minute.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett People are fed up of hearing the Minister reel off statistics and claim achievements when it is blatantly obvious to everybody that the housing and homelessness emergency is worse than it has ever been. In terms of social housing delivery output, let me repeat that in my area, next year, two council houses will be built. If one includes AHBs, it will be 13. That is how much new delivery we are getting, which is down on the previous year. What I asked the Minister about was not statistics. It was about the plight of children. I refer to higher risk of pre-term pregnancy and low birth weight, higher rates of asthma respiratory illness and infectious diseases, poor nutrition and obesity, less access to developmental opportunities, play and recreation and social activities, poorer emotional and mental health and increased behavioural difficulties, less access to preventative health care and lower rates of childhood immunisation, poorer educational opportunities-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett -----difficulties in relationships between parents and their children, and children born into homelessness unable to swallow, unable to learn how to crawl. Does the Minister think that is acceptable? What is he going to do to get children out of that abusive situation?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Minister, please.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. The Deputy is well able to use statistics when they suit him. Facts matter, and behind each of the numbers that I mentioned is a family, a child or an individual who has been helped because of our plans. There are now fewer than 100 people sleeping rough on our streets, which is too many, but it is a very important reduction. It has not been that low since 2015. We have gotten people off the streets and into homes. For every two families that presented to homeless services this year, we prevented one family immediately from going into emergency accommodation. That is important. It is important that people know that we are focusing on preventing people from going into emergency accommodation.

If one is in a family hub, on average one will spend six months in emergency accommodation and the majority of people in emergency accommodation throughout the system are there for less than a year. This is important as well, because it was not always that way. If it was not for the programmes we were bringing in, people would be suffering far longer in emergency accommodation. One of the very first cases I have dealt with as Minister - I was in the job a week - was in relation to children not having enough crawl space and not developing their motor neuron skills because they were in the wrong type of emergency accommodation. That is why we have expanded the hub programme. That is why we are expanding social housing delivery. There have been 10,000 social housing homes this year and families are getting keys to move into those homes.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy The Minister is over time.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy That is how we solve this crisis.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I call Deputy Boyd Barrett for a final comment.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett This report is from the Royal College of Physicians. I think it knows a thing or two about the development of children and this is what it is saying is the children who spent time in homelessness accommodation. I put in parliamentary questions and I am expecting answers tomorrow, although the Minister just indicated we will not get those answers. How many children - we know there are 4,000 currently in homeless accommodation - have spent time in emergency hubs since this Government came into office? I would like to know that, because it is multiples of 4,000. What the Royal College of Physicians is saying is that the life opportunities of these children and their development opportunities and trajectories will be forever affected by this experience of being in emergency accommodation. That situation has gotten worse, not better, in recent months and it has gotten steadily worse during the course of this Government's term of office.

Deputy Eoghan Murphy: Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I have to dispute the comments Deputy Boyd Barrett has made. Supply is the answer and supply is increasing. One should look at the numbers going into emergency accommodation since I came into office and the numbers today. Yes, an increase in the region of 2,500 is unacceptable, but in that same period, 12,000 people left homelessness.


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