Wednesday 28 September 2016

Kerry Anthony: Government cap on rent supplement causing massive damage to our society

Kerry Anthony

Published 28/09/2015 | 02:30

While there are certainly many contributing factors to homelessness structural inadequacies are the root cause of the homelessness crisis
While there are certainly many contributing factors to homelessness structural inadequacies are the root cause of the homelessness crisis

For all my adult life I have been engaged in the struggle against homelessness, spending the last 10 years focusing on the problems here in Ireland.

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It pains me greatly to say that at this point I have never seen it as bad.

When Jonathan Corrie died there were 880 homeless children and we, as a nation, pledged to do whatever it took to deal with the homelessness crisis.

Now there are 1,496 homeless children in Ireland.

Clearly, while there has certainly been a huge amount of energy and resources expended on dealing with the symptoms, Depaul urges focused and diligent action to tackle the root causes of homelessness.

While there are certainly many contributing factors to homelessness - including addiction and mental and physical illness - structural inadequacies are the root cause of the homelessness crisis.

Historic under-investment in social housing and the lack of a national policy on the private rented sector are the underpinning causes of the massive damage to our society caused by long-term homelessness.

As revealed in Depaul's Annual Report 2014, we have seen a truly shocking rise in the number of families and children in need of critical homelessness supports.

As the majority of these households come to us from the private rented sector, the increase in family homelessness must be understood as a direct result of the Government's decision not to increase rent supplement nor introduce meaningful tenure security.

Furthermore, as revealed by the 42pc decrease in 'move-ons' by our service users from homeless accommodation into more permanent housing, the absence of affordable housing stock means that homelessness, once seen as a temporary problem for the individuals and families affected, is fast becoming a permanent condition for those who have fallen out of the housing net.

Therefore it is clear that temporary solutions and surface band aids will not reverse this shocking increase in homelessness.

The Government should show its commitment to cost-effective and permanent solutions to the problem by immediately reversing its decision to cap rent supplement and by providing legal protection to those recipients discriminated against in the rental market.

Even more critically, while we commend the Government's stated commitment to provide more affordable housing options through Social Housing Strategy 2020, we call for them to match their rhetoric with action by front-loading housing starts and completions to meet the escalating demand for social housing.

By applying long-term and proactive policies to combat these root causes, the Government can show that they too believe that homelessness has no place in Ireland.

Kerry Anthony is chief executive of Depaul Ireland

Irish Independent

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