Thursday 13 December 2018

Housing chief under fire after claiming family of disabled boy (9) 'turned down house over 10 minute bus journey'

Dr.Conor Skehan, chairman of the Housing Agency
Dr.Conor Skehan, chairman of the Housing Agency
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A charity has hit out at Housing Agency chairman's claims that the family of a disabled boy who featured in a video about homelessness turned down a home because it was "10 minutes away" from their preferred location.

The case was among four examples cited by Conor Skehan who was defending his claims that homeless people are 'gaming the system'.

Mr Skehan sparked widespread criticism earlier this month by suggesting people may be unnecessarily declaring themselves as homeless, in order to secure a council home.

He was being grilled by politicians yesterday, as he insisted what he actually said was "that there may be an issue and that that should be investigated".

The case of David (not his real name) was filmed using his walker to climb up steps to his emergency accommodation where he was living with is family was cited by Mr Skehan.

The has cerebral palsy and had been living with his family in emergency accommodation for alomst two years. The video was shared as part of the #MyNameIs campaign and went viral.

A Dáil committee heard on Wednesday the councillor approached the local authority to ask why a child with special needs was featured in a video about homelessness.

The councillor was advised the family were offered a three-bedroom family home adapted to the child’s needs, but refused it as it was ten minutes away by bus from where they wanted to live.

However, defending the family, the Inner City Helping Homeless group and My Name Is campaign said they had turned down accommodation which would have resulted in numerous bus journeys every day to get their children to school.

David's mother spoke to RTE Radio One reporter Louise Byrne and  said the house was not on the bus route for David to attend medical supports or school, saying "he obviously doesn't know my story at all."

In another case cited by Mr Skehan, a lady was unable to remain living with her abusive father, and was sleeping in her car with her three children aged under seven. The councillor was told she hadn’t spoken to her mother in years, and could not live with her. The mother later arrived at a meeting to take the children. When asked why the mother she hadn’t spoken to for years was helping, the lady suggested she was told it was the “best way” to get council accommodation.

In a case highlighted by a councillor, he said a young woman was living with her father in council accommodation, but the father asked her to leave. She was accommodated by the local authority in an hotel, but stayed for just a week before moving back to the family home. She used the hotel to meet her partner, but remained on the emergency accommodation list.

In another case, a woman had posted online that it was “hard” to get onto an emergency accommodation list, but “worth it”, and advised others to do the same. “I’ll stick it out to get my forever home. You should think strongly about it,” the post allegedly advised.

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