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Family-of-12 fear they'll be split up because they can't afford to pay rent

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Diarmuid and Sandra Wilson pictured with their children (from left); Scott (9), Tate (8 months), Ruby (5), Kayleigh (13), Casey (1), Dale (4), Ciara (12), Sasha (8), Lee (15) and Devon (2) at their Whitehall home. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Diarmuid and Sandra Wilson pictured with their children (from left); Scott (9), Tate (8 months), Ruby (5), Kayleigh (13), Casey (1), Dale (4), Ciara (12), Sasha (8), Lee (15) and Devon (2) at their Whitehall home. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Diarmuid and Sandra Wilson pictured with their children (from left); Scott (9), Tate (8 months), Ruby (5), Kayleigh (13), Casey (1), Dale (4), Ciara (12), Sasha (8), Lee (15) and Devon (2) at their Whitehall home. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

TEN children face being left homeless within days because rent prices in Dublin have exceeded their parents' social welfare payments.

Their desperate father says he fears his family will be split up unless something is done quickly.

The Purcell family have been warned of eviction by their landlord after the Department of Social Protection refused to grant them rent supplement on a property in Whitehall.

They have been refused the financial assistance because their monthly rent of €1,250 exceeds the maximum €950 available under the scheme.

Diarmuid Purcell told the Herald that they have sought a social housing property from Dublin City Council, but they have been told that none are available. He and wife Sandra have 10 children – aged between eight months and 15 years.

A number of housing groups have previously warned that successive cuts to rent supplement would force families like the Purcells into homelessness.

Despite looking for alternative properties, the family have been unable to find anywhere, suitable for their large family, for €950 a month.

"We're in complete limbo. We can't get a home for the amount of rent available under the rent supplement scheme," Diarmuid explained.

"And we have been told we can't be put into social housing at this point in time.

"So where can we go? We are going to be turfed out and made homeless."

Mr Purcell said the prospect of homelessness has had a "devastating effect" on his family.

Relocation

He and his wife Sandra are unemployed and are left with €750 every month to pay for bills after the rent is paid.

They have lived for the past four and a half years in Roscommon as part of a rural relocation scheme by Dublin City Council.

However when their allowance under the relocation scheme fell behind the price of their rental accommodation they returned to the capital in the hope of finding a suitable house there.

So far this has proven impossible because of the €950 limit on the rent supplement and the Department has said that they will not make any exceptions for their large family.

"We're begging Dublin City Council and the Department to help us. We're at our wits' end and we are terrified of being made homeless and seeing the family split up," Diarmuid said.

"We don't want people to think we're not doing all we can to get a home. We are. But we can't get one under the rent supplement, we can't get one under social housing. So what are we to do?"

Although there are occasions when the Department of Social Protection agrees to breach the €950 cap, it has refused to do so due to the Purcell family's size.

"Please note that, given your exceptional circumstances, a rent payable over the maximum limit could be considered ... However, as the accommodation in question only has three bedrooms and you are a family with 10 children, your accommodation is not established as reasonable suited to your residential and other needs as it is too small," a letter from the Department states.

A number of housing and homeless groups, such as the Simon Community and Focus Ireland, previously warned an Oireachtas Committee that cuts to the supplement limit would drive families into homelessness.

 

Illegal

Recipients have made up the shortfall in rent out of their own pockets as an 'under-the-counter' payment to landlords.

However, according to Mike Allen of Focus Ireland, this is illegal. "This threshold of €950 is inadequate. It's as simple as that. We're seeing a lot of people who can't afford their rent because it exceeds what they are receiving in rent supplement.

"We're putting pressure on the department to change the threshold and they are currently examining it," he said.

Both Dublin City Council and the Department confirmed that they are aware of the family's situation and will be liaising with them.

hnews@herald.ie


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