Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

Last night, the daily struggle of Gillian Bolger and Darren Milne to look after their eight year old twins, Kyle and Ryan, who both have autism and other health issues, was harrowingly revealed. The story showed where the Government, through its agencies, has clearly failed these children and parents, and many more parents, due to the shortage of school places and the inadequacy of timely and regular access to therapies such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and physiotherapy. I ask the Taoiseach to look at that ten-minute segment at the end of "Prime Time". Gillian summed up the feelings of many parents of children with special needs. She asked a question which is asked of many of us. Why are these children not prioritised when it comes to getting into school? Every other kid goes back to school in September. Why is there always a problem for quite a number of children with special needs to get school places in September? They said they had to fight every day, tooth and nail, to secure services for their children. The father, Darren, who works with Bus Éireann, had to cut down his week as the children with their health needs had to come out of school. Because they came out of school, they could not get home tuition. They had to fight for 12 months to get back home tuition. The father could only work two days a week. The couple's income went down, their mortgage went into arrears and they are now facing repossession. Their plight sums up the struggle and fighting that so many parents have to go through to get services for children with special needs. Many parents annually face these challenges in securing school places.

Before the recess, I met the special education council to discuss about six or seven cases, not within my own constituency. One child was 12 months outside secondary school and the mother of that child said exactly what Gillian Bolger said last night. She also told me her other son had no difficulty in getting a placement in his second level school while her child with special needs had to be out of school for 12 months. That is a fundamental failure on the part of Government and the Minister for Education and Skills to provide for children with special needs as they should be provided for. It is a denial of their constitutional right. In my view, there is a terrible inertia within Government towards this issue, which has been ongoing for some time. Last year, the Opposition forced through an amendment to the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 to give the power to the Minister to instruct schools to provide for children with special needs, to have specific autism classes. That is what was done in the 1990s in terms of primary education, when education was transformed in terms of access for children with special needs. There is no plan for second level. There is terrible inertia and a terrible lack of getting in there and getting it sorted. I ask the Taoiseach the question Gillian Bolger asked last night. Why are the children with special needs not prioritised above and beyond everybody else? They are being left behind and the parents are fighting too hard every day.

I thank the Deputy for his question. The matter of special needs is very important and I know that, as a former Minister for Education, the Deputy has had a real and genuine interest in that area down the years. All of us in this House are very aware of the struggles that many parents face in trying to ensure that their children receive the special education they need. While I do not want to comment on any individual case or family, the Minister for Education and Skills has committed to examining the particular case of Kyle and Ryan to see if there is anything more that can be done more quickly for them and their family.

When it comes to special education, there are essentially three options: a place in a special class in a mainstream school; a place in a special school; or home tuition. Sometimes those options do not work out and different options have to be tried but those three options are available. As I think people will want to acknowledge in the interests of fairness and accuracy, the truth is that in the round, children with special educational needs are being prioritised. There has been a huge investment in special education in recent years. The budget for special education is nearly €2 billion, with €1 in every €5 that we spend on education now spent assisting children with special educational needs. That is as much as we invest in higher education. It is a big change from five or ten years ago and shows how much we are prioritising special needs and special education. There are 10,000 children now in special classes, three times as many as there were in 2011. There has been a real ramping up and improvement in the provision of special places and special classes. There are now 15,000 special needs assistants, SNAs, in our schools. There are as many SNAs in the country as there are gardaí, even though the number of gardaí is going up as well. That is a dramatic improvement on where we were eight years ago. There are 13,000 special teachers. This is an area that is being invested in and prioritised. We are in a much better place than we were eight years ago. However, there are plenty of individual cases and plenty of families who are not getting the support they need and deserve. We will continue to work on those cases as best we can.

We can quote the global figures. However, the number of children with special needs is growing. We had an increase in the number of schoolgoing children generally across the board, which does result in increased provision of teachers and SNAs to meet that demographic increase. Last year, about 850 children were availing of home tuition, which reveals an absence of school places for them. In Youghal, for example, there is no second level unit for autism in the school catchment area. I assume other Deputies would have other cases within their own areas. There is no plan for second level. In my own constituency over the last six years, about two schools have been providing for second level pupils with autism. A teacher in Cork brought all the Deputies together and asked us to sponsor an amendment to give power to the Minister to engage with schools to provide for children with special needs. Too many schools have no unit for children with autism. There is no proactivity from the Minister or the Department of Education and Skills. They are standing back, detached. There is a policy of containment. There is a fundamental lack of advocacy for the children within the education service. These children deserve a place in second level without the terrible struggle, daily battles and fighting that was revealed again last night in the "Prime Time" piece on Gillian and Darren. We thank them for having the courage to tell us their struggle because it shines a light on the struggles of many other parents in similar situations. I ask the Taoiseach to do something about this once and for all.

I thank the Deputy. That change to the law - the new section 37A of the Education Act - gave the Minister, for the first time, the power to instruct schools to take new special classes.

That power was used this summer for the first time.

It was used in my own constituency to require schools to take on-----

It was way too late in the year.

-----and open additional special classes and that has caused some difficulty and consternation among school principals and also boards of management.

That is because the Minister did it during the summer holidays.

Yes, some of them were on holidays when they were asked to take on a special class, but I am glad the Minister has invoked that power to require schools to open new special classes and used it. We will work with the principals and boards of management to allay their concerns about taking on additional special classes.

Where I differ with the Deputy is that I do not think global figures should be dismissed so sanguinely. Figures are facts and behind those numbers there are real children. There are now 10,000 children in this country in a special class. That is three times the number eight short years ago. There are 15,000 special needs assistants, as many as we have gardaí, and 13,000 special educational needs teachers. That is a dramatic improvement, a trebling of services for people with special educational needs on eight years ago. There is an increase in demand but it has not trebled.

Why are there more being taught at home?

The Data Protection Commissioner's 172 page report into the public services card provides us with much more than just the findings of her lengthy investigation, which has been ongoing since 2017. It tells us of the flawed arguments put forward by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that in some instances are totally nonsensical. It also gives us a very clear insight into the Department's attitude to the Data Protection Commissioner, one that can only be described as embarrassing and childish. I am embarrassed when I think of the 470 scanned pages, without numbers, and sent illogically by the Department to the commissioner as its response to her initial draft report, like a child throwing a tantrum. That is unprofessional and unbefitting a Department of the State. We see a total lack of regard for taxpayers' money, which we have seen time and again from the Government. The Department threatened the Data Protection Commissioner in October 2018 when it did not get its way when seeking more time to respond to the draft report, even though the commissioner had already extended the deadline for reply. The Department's response was totally unwarranted and unreasonable.

The Data Protection Commissioner referred in her report to the Minister's insistence in arguing that there is no evidence of dissatisfaction with the public services card. Has the Minister forgotten the uproar when an elderly lady lost her pension payment for not having a card, or the delays experienced by people forced to get a public services card in order to allow them to apply for a passport or driver's licence? Likewise, has she forgotten the people who were adopted who were denied a card unless they had an adoption certificate, or any of the numerous complaints received about the public services card by her Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? That hardly screams of satisfaction.

The holding indefinitely of personal documentation belonging to those who apply for the public services card by the Department cannot be explained. The Department's response is that the process of satisfying the Minister as to identity is not necessarily complete once the card issues, yet the legislation clearly states that a public services card will not be issued unless a Minister is satisfied as to the identity of the person. Which is it?

The Taoiseach said yesterday that his view on the Data Protection Commissioner's findings is supported by outside legal counsel.

I thank the Deputy. His time is up.

That advice should be published by the Government in the public interest. Will the Taoiseach publish it? Is he concerned by the clarification given by the Department to the commissioner-----

The Deputy's time is up.

-----that not everyone who was issued with a public services card went through the SAFE 2 process. Some did and some did not. How was the differentiation made and how does that combat fraud?

Like the majority of people in this House, I am a big supporter of the public services card. I think it has worked extremely well. More than 3 million people in this country now have a public services card, including me, and when people were asked what they think about the public services card they have, more than 80% of people were satisfied with it and prefer it to what they had before, namely, a number of different books and passes such as pension books, children's allowance books, free travel passes and the social welfare services card. The public services card has replaced all of those and given people one simple card which enables them to access public services. That is what the public services card is; it does exactly what it says on the tin. It is what it was intended to be in 1998 and in 2005 when it was introduced in legislation. It is there to assist people to access public services and to make public services more efficient to deliver. It is not primarily about fraud, but it also have benefits in terms of deterrence and reducing fraud. Its primary purpose is to make it easier for people to access the public services and benefits they are entitled to and it also makes it more efficient for Departments and agencies to provide those public services.

The reason most people support and like the public services card is that instead of having to go through the rigmarole of going to the chemist, getting passport photos, signing them on the back, going to the Garda station, getting forms signed, filling them in, finding a utility bill and having to do that every year or every couple of years when they engage with a new Government service, they only have to do that once. That is the big advantage with the public services card and that is the reason it has worked very well.

In the pension case Deputy Brady mentioned, it is worth putting on the record of the House that the Data Protection Commissioner found in favour of the Department, but it was dealt with sympathetically in any case by the Minister accepting that there was a conscientious objection.

It is not our practice to publish legal advice either from the Attorney General or from outside counsel. We will not do that but if this case goes to the Circuit Court or the High Court thereafter, the legal advice will be made public at that point, which is the normal procedure when it comes to litigation.

What we just had was a rehashing of all the Taoiseach's arguments on the perceived benefits of the public services card. The Data Protection Commissioner accepts those points, but she says the process is totally illegal. The collection and retention of individuals' data is completely illegal. I again urge the Taoiseach to issue the third party legal advice. I accept it is the practice that advice from the Attorney General is not made public but there is a strong argument for the third party advice to be issued.

Some 3.2 million people had no choice but to get the public services card because it was mandatory but not compulsory. Reading between the lines, the Government is not going to implement the findings of the Data Protection Commissioner and will continue to illegally implement the use of the public services card and essentially put it up to the Data Protection Commissioner to initiate enforcement proceedings so that the case ends up in the court. That is an unfortunate continuation of the waste of public funds.

I thank the Deputy. His time is up.

In terms of the continuation of the roll-out of the public services card, from October it will be required for the national childcare scheme. There are also plans to require the public services card for school transport cases that are being appealed. Under the current system, no ID is needed-----

The Deputy's time is up.

-----for that process. Rather than selling the benefits of the card, which is illegal, the Taoiseach should fully implement the findings of the Data Protection Commissioner and desist from his continuous undermining of the commissioner and her good office.

As Deputy Brady is aware, the national childcare scheme is coming into effect later this year. It will provide increased subsidies for childcare for tens of thousands of families across the State and, for the first time, some 10,000 middle income families will qualify for childcare subsidies.

The vast majority of these families, about 80%, have the public services card already and will be able to apply for those subsidies and increased subsidies online. I think the vast majority of them will do that because they will see the convenience of just being able to take out the public services card, apply for those childcare subsidies online and get those subsidies, without having to go through all the rigmarole of filling in forms, getting photographs, producing bank statements and all of that. However, for those who want it, that option will be available - there will be an option available for those who do not want to get a public services card. Mark my words, people will vote with their feet and their keyboards, and the majority of those parents will use the public services card to apply for that subsidy because it makes sense. Moving online and digitisation is the future of providing public services to people in this country but the alternative will be there.

In regard to the Data Protection Commissioner's report, we have yet to receive an enforcement order from the Data Protection Commissioner. When that arrives, obviously, the Department will study it and if this case goes to litigation, then, at that point in time, of course, any legal advice will be made available. The Minister has offered to meet the Data Protection Commissioner to discuss her concerns and findings but, unfortunately, the Data Protection Commissioner has declined that request.

The one thing I would say is that this is a democracy. The right of appeal is part of a democracy; it is in our Constitution. It is not unusual for the Government to appeal a decision. Dublin City Council made a ruling against the injecting centre on Merchants Quay and the Government has appealed that to An Bord Pleanála. The European Commission, on occasion, makes decisions that we do not agree with and we appeal them to the European Court of Justice. I think we would be undermining the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner if somehow we said her office was unique and that there was no right of appeal. That would be the wrong approach.

We all know Brexit is on the horizon. We do not know the scale of what we are facing yet but that is no reason we should take our eyes off domestic issues. Healthcare and health services is the biggest issue we are facing into as winter is coming. Already, 6,386 people have been on trolleys and it is just September, with 531 people on trolleys right now in overcrowded hospital corridors. As the Taoiseach knows, I represent Tipperary and two of the hospitals serving the county, South Tipperary General Hospital and the hospital for the mid-west, University Hospital Limerick, are often - or nearly always - the most overcrowded in the State despite the best efforts of all the staff and management.

The Government seems to be no closer to getting to grips with health spending either. The Minister, Deputy Harris, who is not present, has also been deliberately avoiding scrutiny in recent months. He had the de Buitléir report last February but chose to release it over the summer in order, obviously, to bury it. Likewise, the HSE capital spending plan was buried by releasing it towards the end of the summer, nine months after the plan was in operation. Maybe the Government thought that these reports would go unnoticed. I believe it was cowardly behaviour by the Government, the Minister and the Department.

The Government claim that the HSE capital plan is not affected by the cost of the national children's hospital is incredible - it is all just profiling. The first test of this will be if projects are going to be delivered on time. I can tell the Taoiseach that, from speaking to numerous HSE officials, they are actually laughing at this plan. There is no hope of the commitments and the milestones being met. Second, there are glaring omissions in this plan. There is little mention of the very good national maternity strategy, which we collectively all support.

To refer back to the most overcrowded hospital, University Hospital Limerick, where is the 96-bed unit that was promised and that is absolutely necessary, as the Minister saw with his own eyes over the summer? This hospital suffers the worst overcrowding in the whole country. Figures from the Department of Health show that no other hospital spends as much on agency staff - €9 million in the first seven months. The staff there are so stressed and the staff in related hospitals in Nenagh, Ennis and St. John's likewise. There is a serious lack of staff. They are also clearly very upset across the country at the de facto recruitment ban that is in place for front-line staff, as well as other staff. We always hear from the HSE and the Minister that this is not a recruitment ban but it is, in effect, a recruitment ban. I can read out lists of people who cannot get jobs in the HSE and others who, despite actually being recruited, cannot commence because of this de facto recruitment ban. What does this say to the staff across the country and to all the patients who need their help?

I ask the Taoiseach the following questions. When will this de facto recruitment ban, that is affecting front-line staff and other critical staff across the HSE, in acute services in particular, be lifted and dealt with? Second, when will he commit to dealing with the outstanding and incredible issues that have been left in the mid-west, particularly at University Hospital Limerick, where there has not been a commitment in the capital plan to the much-needed 96-bed unit?

I thank the Deputy. To go back to his earlier comments, I do not think there is any Minister in the Government who is subject to more scrutiny than Deputy Harris, whether it is in the media, taking questions in this Chamber or appearing before the committee, so I do not accept that at all. I also do not agree with the Deputy's assertion that publishing a document during the summer recess is somehow an attempt to bury it. A lot of us work during the summer recess, not just the Government but also members of the Opposition.

The Minister was not. The poor author was left in a lonely room.

When it came to the HSE capital plan, which runs for three years starting this year, I was there myself and so was the Minister, Deputy Donohoe. I guarantee the Deputy that when we try to hide something, we do not send the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance alongside the Minister for Health.

It is nine months later.

It is not just for this year; it is for three years. What that HSE capital plan contains is the 250 projects that will go ahead over the next three years and answers that bogus claim that the overrun on the children's hospital has somehow caused all other projects to be stopped or delayed. Yes, it does have an impact, it does require some projects to be reprofiled, but we have set out in black and white exactly what the 250 projects going ahead are.

It is important as well that people understand the impact it has. The national children's hospital this year will take up about 1.3% of the budget and 0.4% of public spending in total. Listening to the commentary around it, people would be forgiven for thinking that 10% or 20% of all taxpayers' money this year is being spent on a single project. That is not the case. Some 0.4% of Government spending this year is on that project and 1.27% of the HSE budget is going on that project, which leaves 98% for everything else, including the 250 projects that are in that plan.

The Deputy referenced in particular the maternity strategy. That is in the plan. The tendering of Holles Street to move to St. Vincent's is there in the plan, and the funding required to begin work on the transfer of St. Munchin's to Dooradoyle in County Limerick, of the Coombe to the St. James's site and of the Rotunda to Connolly is provided for in the plan.

There were two reports. They were buried and everyone knows what happened. One was nine months late and the other has sat in a lonely room since February. The Department did not even have the class to change the date on the cover of the report.

In regard to the de Buitléir report, does the Government intend to implement the recommendations of the report to remove private medicine from public hospitals? Will it honour what Sláintecare said? I was part of the team that reported on that. Will the Taoiseach commit to that here and now? With regard to the capital plan, will the Taoiseach give a commitment to the people of the mid-west that the 96-bed unit that is required in the most overcrowded hospital in Ireland will be delivered? Otherwise, will he commit in the interim that there will be some change in the pathways in regard to how the emergency theatre operates in that area? We are in a crisis and we cannot continue. There will have to be different pathways in regard to Ennis, Nenagh and St. John's. Will the Taoiseach tell us today, on this date in September, considering we have had a nine-month delay with two reports, when the winter plan will be published for the forthcoming winter season?

The winter plan will be published before the winter.

As for wishing to bury a document, here are the facts: four Ministers, including the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health, went out to Dún Laoghaire-----

Are there any good ones?

-----and to the wonderful new national rehab hospital that is now almost completed and that will replace the Victorian facilities there.

Is there any sign of the children's hospital?

I absolutely guarantee the Deputy that we were disappointed the visit did not get more coverage than it did.

(Interruptions).

I do not take half a day out with four Ministers when I want to bury something. I absolutely guarantee the Deputy that.

May we have order for the Taoiseach?

We were disappointed it did not get more coverage. Why did it not get more coverage? Because it is good news. These are the 250 healthcare capital projects that are going ahead-----

-----over the course of the next three years.

The Opposition does not like good news.

Sack the press officer.

To respond to Deputy Kelly's other questions, the Government accepts the de Buitléir report. It is Government policy to remove private practice from public hospitals but, having read the report, everyone will understand the difficulties and costs associated with its delivery. It will cost €600 million a year, or €6 billion over ten years, three times the cost of the children's hospital. It is already the case that private practice in public hospitals is going down. It is now down to about 15%. Having read the report, the Deputy will understand the complications in delivering this, how much it will cost and how many years it will take to do it.

I asked about the 96-bed unit.

Finally, Limerick has a new emergency department and the new Leben wing, both delivered by this Government and open and operating, and a new ward block under construction which will be opened and will operate certainly in the next six months. I will have to come back to the Deputy on the 96-bed block, but so much investment has gone into that hospital to date I know he will want to complement us on that.

The Taoiseach should visit it.

May we have order for Deputy Boyd Barrett, please?

This morning I brought three different groups of tenants into the Public Gallery before addressing a question to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Murphy. All three groups face evictions by ruthless vulture funds that have absolutely no concern for their welfare but seek to evict them in order to drive up the value of the property assets they have purchased. More than 100 individuals and families, some in Inchicore, some in Dublin 6, the Minister's own constituency, and some in my constituency, Dún Laoghaire, face evictions at the hands of these vulture funds. All the funds are using loopholes in the residential tenancies legislation in order to justify or execute these attempted evictions, loopholes which we in the Opposition have repeatedly pointed out would be and are being used by vulture funds to evict people. The loopholes relate to substantial refurbishment of property and sale of property. The latest case concerns the Dún Laoghaire residents, who face the fourth separate effort by two different vulture funds to have them evicted in the past two years. This time they think it will succeed because they have found another loophole to get around the so-called Tyrrelstown amendment, which restricts mass evictions in cases of ten or more tenants. What do these vulture funds do? They evict eight of the 11 tenants and then, in nine months' time, they can evict the other three. There used to be 21 tenants in the properties affected, but slowly the vulture funds have whittled their numbers down through insecurity, fear and anxiety. The numbers go down as the vulture funds try to get them all out. Now 50 families on Richmond Street and Grove Park, in Dublin 6, face the same, as do residents of three blocks of apartments, Emmet Manor, Emmet Court and Emmet Lodge, in Inchicore.

I asked the Minister for Housing what he would do to stop these ruthless, inhuman vulture funds - that is what they are. Let us be clear about what is at stake. They are trying to do one thing and one thing only: make people homeless to drive up the value of the assets and make profit. They do not want to be landlords and they do not care about the tenants or the kids. They just want to drive up the value of the assets. What will the Government do about this? We have put before the Government Bills to amend the Constitution to enshrine the right to housing and we have seen the House pass the Solidarity-People Before Profit anti-evictions Bill, which the Government blocks, to prevent evictions in these kinds of cases, but still the Government does nothing. It is protecting these vultures and giving them tax breaks. Michael Noonan invited them in in 2013 with a whole series of meetings and they are ruthlessly exploiting the housing crisis and inflicting misery on hundreds of families. What will the Taoiseach do?

I think the Deputy may be conflating evictions with notices to quit. Of course, they are not the same thing-----

I said "attempted evictions".

-----and it is wrong to conflate the two. Eviction rates in Ireland are probably among the lowest in the western world. Leaving that aside, a crucial part of the Government's housing policy has been to enhance and strengthen the rights of tenants. We did so by introducing rent controls. Hundreds of thousands of people renting across the country who might have faced very high rent increases in recent years have had rent increases of between 0% and 4% instead. That has brought a lot of relief to people who are renting. There are also longer notice-to-quit periods such that if somebody is asked by the owner to leave a property, he or she is given much more time to find an alternative place to rent, and that has really helped people too. As for notices to quit linked to refurbishments, it is now a requirement that the landlord offers the refurbished house or apartment to the tenant after the refurbishment takes place, which I think will make a difference too.

The Residential Tenancies Board, RTB, has confirmed that a number of cases related to the specific matters the Deputy raised have now been referred to its independent dispute resolution process, and that is ongoing. The RTB replaces the courts in the majority of lanlord-tenant disputes, and it is important that all parties are afforded due process and that their cases are heard in order to ensure that the dispute resolution system is legally robust. We strongly encourage any tenant to contact the RTB to access a dispute resolution service if an issue arises. As of 1 July of this year, the RTB has new powers of investigation and can sanction improper conduct by landlords, including any non-compliance with tenancy termination provisions.

Rent increases of 4% per year on top of already unaffordable rents are not doing much to control rents. They are completely out of control and beyond the vast majority of workers' ability to pay. The failure of all the measures the Taoiseach cited to address the threat of vulture funds trying to evict people is very evident in the case of St. Helen's Court, Dún Laoghaire, as I mentioned. Two different vulture funds - one flipped the property to the other - have attempted four times to try to evict the people living there. When they keep doing this it has an attrition effect and it is absolutely clear that the people behind these funds have no interest in having tenants. They have succeeded. In that block there are now ten empty units sitting there. The Government should instruct Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to use compulsory purchase powers to take over those units. Otherwise, the vulture funds will eventually drive the tenants out, as they have already driven out ten. More to the point, the Government should close the loopholes in the law that allow these vulture funds to do this continually, but the Government is not doing so. The vulture funds find new loopholes because the Government still allows sale or refurbishment as grounds for attempted eviction. Another way around this is that they refurbish the property but change its fundamental character such that they cannot offer it back to the tenant because it is a different type of property. That is what they are doing.

I ask in the first instance that the Taoiseach gets the Minister to intervene to ensure that the local authorities-----

The Deputy's time is up.

-----secure those properties to prevent the eviction, change the loopholes in order that one cannot evict on the grounds of sale, close down the other loopholes and introduce a constitutional right to housing.

I thank the Deputy. His time is up.

That is how we will address these vulture funds treating tenants in this way.

Regarding the rent caps, rent increases are set at a maximum of 4%. That has given hundreds of thousands of people already renting a house or an apartment a degree of certainty about their rent. However, it has a knock-on effect, in some cases a negative one, on people who need to move or people who are renting for the first time. That is the downside to rent controls. However, it gives people who are in existing tenancies, who are renting apartments and houses, a degree of certainty they never had before. The Deputy mentioned landlords attempting to evict tenants.

I do not know the exact details of the case the Deputy mentioned. Since he stated that there was an attempt to evict, I assume it was unsuccessful. This would indicate that the law was on the side of the tenants and was successfully upheld.

Ten of them are gone.

The Deputy proposes preventing homeowners, property owners and landlords from selling the apartments or houses they own. We think that is too onerous. If a person owns an apartment or a house and it has been rented out for a period, he or she may need to sell it. He or she may need to pay off debts or emigrate.

Sell the properties with the tenant.

We have extended the period of notice that has to be given to tenants. They have much more time than they had before to find alternative properties.