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New guidelines on rent supplement insufficient: SVP

By Ann Marie Foley - 22 December, 2014

SVP-Launches-New-Book-‘The-Society-of-St-Vincent-dNew guidelines on rent supplement are failing to address the issue of homelessness due to rent increases the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has warned.

The ‘Rent Supplement Protocol’ guidelines for staff assessing rent supplement for families at risk of losing their homes are too restrictive regarding who can be helped, how it can be accessed, and has been operating mainly in Dublin the SVP has said.

“As rents increase, without extra housing in the short-term, this situation will continue to get worse and more families will face homelessness without changes to rent caps in Dublin and elsewhere,” said John-Mark McCafferty, SVP head of Social Justice and Policy.

The SVP says Social Welfare representatives dealing with rent increases do not have sufficient authority to increase rent supplement.

Changes to the supplement can only be made in very limited circumstances like when a person has profound disabilities or is seriously ill and at risk of being made homeless.

John-MarkMcCafferty SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy

John-MarkMcCafferty SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy

John-Mark McCafferty explained that families who have extreme difficulties paying increased rent can have difficulty contacting Social Welfare representatives responsible for this area, as there is only a phone a number or email and in some areas there is no drop-in facilities.

SVP and other organisations try to help by making a case on behalf of clients, but this can be very labour intensive at a time when all volunteers are busy ensuring families have food and other essentials for Christmas.

Already the SVP is working with Threshold in supporting tenants to avoid eviction after rents have been increased.

The body has also been far more involved with the Private Residential Tenancies Board during the last year, to help resolve the difficulties of an ever increasing numbers of people.

The ‘Rent Supplement Protocol’ is being extended to the south-west of the country in January 2015, according to John-Mark McCafferty, who added that it is not being extended to the areas of the big rent increases and tenants at risk of homelessness in Wicklow, Kildare or Meath which border on the greater Dublin area.

Earlier in the week, on 16 December 2014 the SVP celebrated its 170 years in Ireland.

The first meeting to establish the SVP in Ireland was held on 16 December 1844, at the White Cross Rooms in Charles Street West, Dublin.

Since those first days, the SVP has adapted to meet changing social and economic conditions created by famine, two world wars, civil war, internal strife, boom times and years of austerity.

The recent years of austerity has brought one of the SVP’s biggest challenges in its history.

From 2006 until 2013 calls for assistance grew dramatically as did the cost of providing help with food, energy, education and basic living expenses. Helping prevent homelessness due to increasing rents is one of the latest urgent needs that SVP is responding to.

Last month a new book detailing the much loved charity’s work went on sale. ‘The Society of St Vincent de Paul in Ireland – 170 years of fighting poverty’ is published by New Island Books.

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