Rent supplement changes 'causing severe hardship'
GOVERNMENT claims that changes to the rent supplement rules are "not having adverse effects" have been flatly contradicted by a new report issued today by the Catholic welfare agency, Crosscare.
The main change to the rules - introduced last year as part of the so-called 'Savage 16' welfare reforms - means that a person must now be paying rent themselves for six months before becoming entitled to rent supplement.
Anti-poverty groups predicted that the change would lead to an upsurge in homelessness.
Now a new report called 'Creating Crisis: the impact of rent supplement restrictions' says that "many people are now suffering extreme hardship as a result of the revised scheme."
A study released last week by the Department of Social and Family Affairs showed that only 57 out of 498 individuals in a random sample were refused rent supplement because of the changed rules.
However, Patrick Burke of the national housing organisation, Threshold, said that what was important was not "the raw number of refusals, but the tragic human story behind each refusal. The numbers alone don't tell this story, which should be the primary concern of Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Coughlan".
Yvonne Fleming of Centrecare, an information service of Crosscare, called on the minister to "read the study and tell these people what their alternative to rent supplement is".
"The minister must go back to the way things were and she must allow her community welfare officers more discretion in deciding when to allow the payment of rent supplement."
Ms Coughlan said that her information indicated that "no-one had been made homeless by these measures".
A spokesman for her department admitted that it was not known how many people in total had been refused rent supplement because of the changed rules.