By Ann Marie Foley - 14 October, 2015
There was disappointment among homeless charities over the failure of Ministers Michael Noonan and Alan Kelly to agree proposals to tackle rising rents in time for Budget 2016.
CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust Pat Doyle said, “We are disappointed the Government chose not to do anything of note for homeless individuals, couples and families.”
“We welcome the additional €38 million for TUSLA particularly given the rapidly rising numbers of homeless children. It is also very disappointing that nothing additional is being proposed in the areas of mental health services and drug treatment supports.”
He said that an improving economy will not automatically help the most vulnerable and that the homeless are “simply not important” to politicians.
“That or they have simply ignored the issue. Increasing spending in emergency accommodation will not solve homelessness, investment in housing and areas such as drug treatment, mental health and children and youth affairs are the solutions to this emergency,” said Pat Doyle.
Minister Noonan said in his Dáil speech: “It is clear that there is a market failure in the provision of new housing across the country but particularly in Dublin. Driven by demographic demands and strong economic growth, there is a requirement for a minimum of 10,000 new units per annum in the Dublin area but the market only delivered 3,300 units in the last year.
He added, “NAMA is aiming to deliver a target of 20,000 residential units before the end of 2020. 90 per cent of these units will be in the greater Dublin area. About 75 per cent of these units will be houses, mainly starter homes.”
He said this would mean an average of 80 new housing units every week.
Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, said that the much needed €17 million will all be paid to hotel owners or to provide modular emergency housing.
“The crucial thing is that there is nothing at all to slow down the shocking number of families becoming homeless. There are now four times as many homeless families – 740 families – as there were two years ago on budget day. That’s over 1,500 children facing Christmas without a home. There is nothing in the budget to stop that number doubling again in a year.”
He appealed to the public to lobby vote seeking politicians for rent certainty, and adequate rent supplement and measures to stop tenants losing their homes when their landlord gets into difficulties.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) was also disappointed lack of measures to improve the private rented sector.
With reference to capital expenditure on social housing, the charity stated that the Government proposals do not provide even sufficient funding to stand still.
“There are at least 89,000 households in need of social housing, as last measured in 2013; the Government’s Social Housing 2020 only provides for 35,000 new homes, and it is far too slow in being implemented. SVP wants to see the 20,000 NAMA units announced in today’s Budget being social and affordable homes,” stated the charity.
Overall SVP welcomed the thrust of the budget but said that it is only giving back a small element of the losses Irish people have endured in recent years and could have been more targeted.
SVP was pleased with the reductions in USC for low paid workers, increasing the statutory minimum wage, increasing the fuel allowance, the increase in FIS income threshold and the earnings disregard for lone parents on jobseekers transitional payment.
The changes to the early years care and education sector were also welcomed.
“It should result in immediate impact for young families,” said the charity referring to the additional 8,000 places in the Community Childcare Subvention Scheme, extending the free Pre-School to three year olds and introducing two weeks of paternity leave from next July.
“Supporting families in the first critical years of a child’s life reaps long-term social and economic returns,” stated the charity.
Trócaire welcomed the Government’s decision to increase the overseas development assistance budget by €40 million to €640 million.
“This signals a welcome end to the years of cuts to the overseas aid budget that have had a cruel impact on some of the world’s poorest people,” said Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan.
Trócaire has also called for a road map to outline how Ireland will reach its international commitment of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas assistance. Current spend stands at just 0.35% of GNI.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland welcomed the announcement of €25m for the refugee crisis but it cautioned that the Government must also commit to keep the figure under review.
Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said, “Ensuring proper integration of those arriving in Ireland is key.”
He said this will involve providing refugees with access to education, training and employment and the opportunity to participate in their new communities.