Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

Community facilities, businesses, crèches, leisure centres, hotels, pubs, marts, you name it, are all under extraordinary pressure because of the rising costs of insurance. Many of us in this House have met a range of groups across the country that feel their enterprises are endangered by the dramatically escalating insurance costs and premiums. Many businesses are under significant threat. There are quite a number of fraudulent cases, which are a significant factor in the rising costs of insurance and in the culture of claiming at any cost.

The Irish Independent, in a recent undercover investigation, has also reported that some GPs and solicitors are contributing to this culture of fraudulent and exaggerated claims by amending and holding back vital information in terms of medical reports and some sort of interaction between elements within both professions. In that context, it is fair to say that the Government's response to date, going back over the past three years and the various commissions that have been established, has been one of considerable inertia, with delay after delay and a lack of urgency in grappling with the essentials of this crisis.

I welcome the intention of the Government to support Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh's Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018, which has been supported by my colleague, Deputy Troy, and the Fianna Fáil Party from the outset. We will help to fast-track this through the Dáil. I also point out to the Taoiseach that as far back as October 2018, former Deputy, Billy Kelleher, tabled legislation, the Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill, which would have mandated the courts to refer claims and actions which they dismissed as fraudulent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, so that fraudsters would face the full rigours of the law. We have been waiting and waiting for a response from the Minister for Justice and Equality about that legislation. The Minister is nodding. I have letters about it. Eight months ago, he indicated that he would deal with this within a month and it has not been dealt with. Deputy Michael McGrath also introduced legislation that would again have increased penalties for those making fraudulent claims. It would have added to the strength of our deterrence to people who would take such claims, especially since they would be obliged to pay the legal costs of a fraudulent claim. At the moment, the holder of the insurance policy or the establishment or the enterprise has to bear the full brunt of the legal costs in many of these cases. Deputy Michael McGrath's Bill is still on Committee Stage. I welcome the fast-tracking of Senator Ó Céidigh's Bill but, equally, I put it to the Taoiseach that former Deputy, Billy Kelleher's, Bill should have been fast-tracked a long time ago, as should Deputy McGrath's.

It is more than 12 months since the completion of the final report of the Personal Injuries Commission. Incredibly, it showed that the level of damages for soft tissue injuries in Ireland is four and a half times higher than that of our nearest neighbours in England and Wales. Will the Government commit to fast-tracking former Deputy, Billy Kelleher's, legislation and Deputy Michael McGrath's legislation, which would have an impact on those making fraudulent insurance claims? When will the Government establish a publicly-funded anti-fraud unit in An Garda Síochána?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue, which all in this House know is a significant concern for the business sector, sports clubs, crèches and community halls, all of which are facing the cost of rising insurance premiums. We and everyone involved in the sector, including insurance companies, Judiciary and others, need to recognise that increasing insurance costs have a consequence. They can cause businesses to close and people to lose their jobs. None of us wants this to happen. We have made good progress in recent years on the broader area of insurance. We have seen motor insurance fall from its peak in 2016 by maybe 20% or 30%. Health insurance, which had been rising rapidly every year, has now levelled off for the past few years, and the same goes for home insurance. When it comes to public liability, we have much work yet to do. I join the Deputy in complimenting the Irish Independent on the investigation it carried out into the nexus that exists between some elements of the legal and medical professions when it comes to exaggerating and altering claims. That was a very timely investigation and it is something that we all need to pay a lot of attention to because, unfortunately, there is a profit motive there. Elements of both professions make a lot of money out of these claims.

With regard to Government action, as the Deputy acknowledged, we are pressing ahead with the Perjury and Related Offences Bill, which is being piloted by Senator Ó Céidigh and others. That will strengthen our perjury laws regarding those who make fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

In addition, the judicial council will set up a committee, led by judges, to examine the quantum of personal injury claims. Those judges are independent and it is important to allow them to do their work independently. As the Deputy pointed out, the payouts for personal injuries in Ireland are four and five times what they are in other jurisdictions. As we all know, in around 90% of cases, people no longer need to attend treatment for their whiplash once they receive a payment. It seems the cure for whiplash in Ireland is a compensation payment rather than any medical treatment.

Deputy Pearse Doherty has also brought forward legislation to address this issue, for which the Cabinet approved two amendments this morning. We will bring that Bill through and it will result in greater transparency around insurance costs. Senator Ó Céidigh's Bill on perjury and Deputy Pearse Doherty's Bill on transparency are progressing, and most importantly, the judicial council is setting up its independent committee to review the quantum of awards paid to people who suffer injuries in Ireland. If the awards payments go down, we expect the insurance industry, which notwithstanding everything else is very profitable in Ireland, to respond with lower premiums.

I will have to come back to the Deputy about the Bills proposed by Deputy Michael McGrath and former Deputy Billy Kelleher. I will take a look at them and come back to the Deputy during the week on whether they can be progressed and find out why they have not been.

My understanding is that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, was supposed to come back to us on that eight months ago. Former Deputy Billy Kelleher wrote to him about this matter. I got the Minister's response. It might have been eight months ago when he said he would respond within a month.

There are no data available on public liability insurance claims. Many of the Personal Injuries Commission's recommendations have yet to be implemented. The Taoiseach spoke of health insurance costs levelling off. There is a terrible air of detachment to that comment because most people are frightened and desperate because of the level of health insurance prices. Health insurance has a huge impact on people's incomes. The Taoiseach's statement that costs are levelling off would not resonate with elderly people, who cling to their health insurance, in particular. The cost of motor insurance has also increased by 32% since 2014. The Taoiseach should ask young drivers, returning emigrants, or even older drivers about this matter as they have huge issues with it.

The real issue here is the delay. The Taoiseach mentioned the Judicial Council Bill. How long has it been since that was recommended? This is a crisis. I do not believe there is a timeline for the judicial council to report back, but I ask the Taoiseach to indicate what it might be. We meet with various interest groups which are paying insurance, and they are desperate about this. Take Killinarden community centre, for example. It may have to close some facilities because it simply cannot afford the 30% hike in premium it is facing.

The Taoiseach to respond.

It is happening all over the country. This is going on year after year and the Government's response is both delayed and seemingly ineffective.

The Judicial Council Bill only recently became law. Legislation only becomes law after it is passed by the Oireachtas and signed by the President.

That is because the Government would not bring it into the Seanad.

We fast-tracked it.

While it only became law in the last few weeks, it is now possible for the Chief Justice to establish the aforementioned committee.

The Taoiseach only brought the Bill to the Seanad to make the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, happy.

The Taoiseach, without interruption.

The Chief Justice is now establishing that committee. As the Deputy knows, the Judiciary guards its independence fiercely, and is right to do so. It is not for this House to set a timeline for its work. However, I will ask for the work to be carried out as expeditiously as possible. Perhaps the chairman of the committee, or the Chief Justice himself, can inform us as to what timeline they think they can meet.

In terms of the Garda response, it was recommended that a dedicated bureau be established to deal specifically with the issue of insurance fraud. That is the Garda Commissioner's decision, and in his wisdom, he has decided that rather than setting up a dedicated national bureau which would deal only with insurance fraud, this issue would be best addressed at divisional and local levels and through the national economic crime bureau. I agree with his decision. The matter is being dealt with-----

-----in the way the Garda Commissioner thinks best.

He is only issuing guidance. It is not being done.

Today the Society of St. Vincent de Paul launched a report entitled, Growing up in the Cold, which exposes the grim reality of thousands of families living in energy poverty. One in six households spends more than 10% of its income on heating and electricity.

Older and lone parents are particularly affected. Significantly, the report highlights that 42% of children living in the private rental sector experience energy poverty and 36% of children living in social housing have the same difficulties. The report clearly shows a relationship between poor-quality accommodation and energy poverty. The report states that 140,000 children are living in homes with leaks, damp and rot. One parent quoted in the report said:

There are six of us with two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom. We have one small heater, and we move it from room to room.

One small heater is a clear breach of minimum standards.

Two years ago, this House passed a Sinn Féin Private Members' motion on standards in the private rental sector. It called for an NCT-style certification system for private rented housing, adequate resourcing for local authorities to ensure meaningful inspection and enforcement and a review of penalties for non-compliant landlords. Two years on, what has changed? Last year, just 9% of private rental properties were inspected. Of these, 82% failed to meet minimum standards and less than half of these had their breaches resolved by year end. This is simply not good enough. The Government's failure to resource the enforcement of minimum standards is leaving tens of thousands of people, including thousands of children, living in the cold and its failure to properly fund the maintenance of council housing is leaving thousands of the State's tenants in unacceptable conditions. In light of the depressing findings in today's report, will the Government fully implement the proposals in the 2017 Sinn Féin motion, which was passed without opposition in the House, and actively consider implementing the seven recommendations in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul report published this morning?

The Deputy has given me the courtesy of a very direct question. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the chance to read that report so I would have to look at it before I could tell him which recommendations we can and cannot implement. I acknowledge that many people in Ireland experience energy poverty, or fuel poverty, if one prefers to use that term. This is particularly relevant at this time of the year during the winter as days get darker and colder. We are all aware that quite a considerable number of people every year across the western world, including Ireland, die as a result of cold-related illnesses.

What are we doing about it? There are four main measures. First, the fuel allowance will go up again in a few weeks in January. We are investing in retrofitting social housing to make sure we improve the quality of that housing and make those homes warmer. New building standards mean that pretty much all new buildings and new homes are near zero-energy buildings. The better energy warmer homes scheme can assist people to retrofit their homes and make them warmer. Local authorities also have a role to play. Many parties opposite are in controlling positions in local authorities and can reduce or increase property tax or commercial rates. They also need to be held accountable for their decisions where they choose to reduce property tax instead of, for example, investing in housing and other services or perhaps choosing whitewater rafting as a priority over other issues when they get control of a local authority.

It would be remiss of the House not to acknowledge the significant progress that has been made in recent years in reducing poverty. Notwithstanding the many individual stories of people suffering and families in distress, we know from the CSO survey on income and living conditions, published last week, that poverty in Ireland has fallen for five years in a row. It is at its lowest in a very long time. Deprivation rates are falling and income inequality is at its second lowest since records began. This is a considerable achievement that perhaps does not always come across when we tend to focus on hard cases, however real they may be. We are seeing significant progress in reducing poverty, including child poverty, and deprivation in recent years. This did not happen by accident. It happened because we have jobs, the economy is being well managed, the minimum wage has been increased and incomes and pay are increasing. Take-home pay is increasing because of reductions in tax and increases in social welfare. Those will continue as long as we manage the economy and public finances well.

The great difficulty is that under the Government's two-tier economic recovery, increasing numbers of people are being left far behind. There is a fuel allowance but it comes nowhere close to covering the rising cost of fuel. Retrofitting of local authority stock is ongoing but one must wait for two to three years to get one's windows or doors replaced. The new standards for building are very much in question when local authorities are not being funded by the Government to adequately inspect private rental tenancies.

Local authorities have a role to play but let us not forget that, thanks to the Government and its Fianna Fáil predecessor, local authorities lost 25% of their staff during the recession. That was the single greatest loss of staff in any sector of the public service.

I ask the Taoiseach to carefully study the report from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and its seven recommendations, and then come back to this House to tell us which of those recommendations should be implemented. I also ask the Taoiseach to respect the democratic decision made by this House in November 2017 and to implement fully the recommendations of the Sinn Féin Private Members' motion to ensure that all private rental properties are fully inspected and all minimum standards are fully adhered to in order that no child is living in energy poverty because of the failure of the Government to fund adequate enforcement of inspection of properties in the private rental or local government sectors.

I have immense respect for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul as an organisation and I will look at the report. The Government will issue a reasoned response when it has had a chance to consider the report.

On the wider issue, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts. If we had a two-tier economic recovery in Ireland, we would not see income inequality at its second lowest level since records began in 2004, nor would we see consistent poverty falling dramatically as it has in recent years. We would not see deprivation going down or 40,000 children lifted out of child poverty in recent years.

Things vary from region to region and the experience is not the same for every family but the experience in Ireland is, broadly, that we are going in the right direction. Unemployment is down and incomes are rising while poverty and deprivation are falling. Those are the facts and no amount of politics, populism or spin can cover those up.

The Deputy spoke about inspections of properties and the new Residential Tenancies (Amendment) Act gives new powers to the Residential Tenancies Board and there are additional inspectors. The first cases are now under way. By 2021, it is anticipated that one in four properties will be inspected so, roughly speaking, every property will be inspected every four years. Money is being provided for this by central Government but it would be helpful if those parties in control of local authorities that could help to contribute to the cost of that would do so, rather than cutting the local property tax, LPT, or investing in white-water rafting.

Since the Taoiseach has not read the report from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, I will read some passages from it:

Light, heat and power are fundamental requirements to participate in society and a prerequisite for social inclusion. ... [Last] year, SVP spent more than €5 million helping people with the cost of energy - an increase of 20% on the previous year. We are therefore concerned about the current and future impact of energy price increases on the households we are assisting - the majority of which are families with children. Furthermore, amid the current housing crisis, ]the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is] meeting more and more families who are forced to put up with substandard accommodation, with issues like damp and mould commonplace. Members are particularly worried about the risk of poor health for children living in these conditions for long periods of time.

The report notes "A household is considered energy poor if it is unable to attain an acceptable standard of warmth and energy services in the home at an affordable cost." Some of the figures in the report are stark. Households with children are more than twice as likely to be in arrears with utility bills than households without children. Some 140,000 children are living in homes that have issues with leaks, damp and rot, while 31% of lone parents are spending more than 10% of their income on energy and one lone parent in seven is in severe poverty.

I wish to raise a couple of issues beyond those raised by Deputy Ó Broin. The fuel allowance was increased to a generous €5 - I am joking - in the most recent budget. It is clear that it will go nowhere near meeting the increases in carbon tax that were brought in in the same budget. Moreover, not all of the poorest children who rely on social welfare are in receipt of fuel allowance.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, I pursued and won the support of this House for a fuel poverty study to be carried out prior to the carbon tax being increased. As the Minister and the Government failed to do that, we must revisit the question of fuel poverty among 140,000 children, who will be waiting for Santa Claus in freezing cold and who, the report states, will huddle together in one room in an attempt by their parents to heat that room rather than have them separated throughout the house.

I want to highlight three areas of the Taoiseach's failure. The first is the housing policy and the over-reliance on the private sector. A private landlord can apply for grants to retrofit and secure a home with insulation. A tenant cannot do that. The second is the blind insistence on increasing the carbon tax for everybody, regardless of their situation. The third is the lack of ambition shown by the Government in its policies on retrofitting. The Government is leaving people in the private rented sector, as well as those who are council tenants, completely vulnerable. Councils do not have a budget this year for retrofitting homes. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, is inadequately funded to do the job that is required.

I am not sure I can add much to the response I gave earlier but to reiterate, the fuel allowance, or the energy allowance, as it will be called, will increase in January and that will help people with their energy costs. The child dependant allowance also will increase, which will help the poorest families who have children with bills in general. We are retrofitting social housing. One of the policy decisions we made in the budget was to ring-fence any additional funding coming in from an increase in the carbon tax for climate action and just transition.

That is pie in the sky.

We are using the proceeds of that carbon tax increase to pay for more retrofitting of social housing to increase the fuel allowance. We are also building more social housing. Approximately 11,000 houses will be added to the social housing stock next year; while 10,000 were added this year. Those houses, three quarters of which are new builds, are built to the highest standard and are warm homes. I have been in many of those homes and have seen how comfortable they are. They are a huge improvement on the very old social housing stock across the country that needs to be upgraded. That can only be done, however, year by year and bit by bit.

The fuel allowance goes up to €24 a week, not €5 a week. For those in receipt of the fuel allowance, it will compensate them, and then some, when it comes to the carbon tax. I appreciate that some people do not receive the fuel allowance but of the worst-off, the lowest income quartile in society, most do receive it. The cost of the carbon tax increase is approximately €40 per household but the fuel allowance increase is approximately €50, so it more than compensates those in receipt of fuel allowance. I appreciate it varies from household to household and people have different heating systems but that is the case, generally speaking.

The Deputy mentioned that the carbon tax applies to everyone. I wonder if she understands how carbon tax works. It is not possible to apply carbon tax to some people and not to others. The whole point of a behavioural tax like carbon tax, like the tax we have on cigarettes and alcohol, is that it does apply to everyone. The more carbon one produces, the more one pays. It applies to businesses as well. In fact, most of the carbon tax is paid for by businesses.

In case the Taoiseach is saying that the report the Society of St. Vincent de Paul issued this morning is some kind of fairy tale, I repeat that 140,000 children are cold this winter in the weeks leading up to Christmas. How does that make the Taoiseach feel? It makes me feel appalled.

I want to relocate where I believe the problem exists. The Taoiseach says the carbon tax is to change behaviour but he does not allow people to change their behaviour. People living in private rented accommodation cannot apply for SEAI grants and there is no compunction on landlords to have their homes up to standard. People living in council houses cannot apply for SEAI grants. The council must intervene and retrofit their homes. The Taoiseach, therefore, is penalising the most vulnerable and the poorest.

I will not repeat the statistics I read out at the start of my contribution but I wish to point out another major anomaly. Many people who move into council tenancy or buy their own homes are forced to go onto pre-pay power. A company known as PrePayPower Ireland released figures in November indicating that it has received a dividend in this country of €17.2 million.

That is outrageous when people are forced to use these cards. Yet, we have the highest rate of energy arrears in Europe. There is something desperately wrong when a company is making vast profits and ordinary people have to suffer in this way without any returns from the company to help alleviate the poverty and cold that children are experiencing this winter.

The Taoiseach to respond.

I appeal to the Taoiseach not to deny that what the Society of St. Vincent de Paul reported this morning is true. It is absolutely true and he should deal with the facts.

The fact that the Deputy feels the need to put words in my mouth and attribute remarks to me that I never made says to me that she is not interested in the facts.

The Deputy referred to council housing. As I mentioned, we have a retrofitting programme under way. That is in part being funded by the proceeds coming in from the carbon tax. We are building more social housing all the time. It is social housing to the highest quality ever.

It is at a snail's pace.

Approximately 10,000 additional social homes will be provided this year. That is more than any year in the past 20 through the boom and the bust. It will be up to 11,000 next year and 12,000 the year after. Approximately 60,000 new homes will be added to the social housing stock over the coming five years. It is probably the biggest social housing programme that has happened in generations. It is happening with homes being built to the highest quality and with the best energy ratings.

My question concerns the number of children in emergency accommodation. In October the number was 3,826 and now we approach Christmas 2019. I had proposed to put this question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs but it was transferred this afternoon to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government for reply at a later date. It was to be a priority question. I am going to ask the Taoiseach the question instead.

In July 2016, I suggested to the Minister for Children and Family Affairs in a parliamentary question that the spectre of 2,177 children being housed in emergency accommodation was a blight on the nation. With projected figures of 4,026 children in such accommodation by this Christmas, I asked how the Minister would respond to the appalling deterioration in the figures. Of course I am now asking the Taoiseach instead of the Minister, who transferred the question.

In a similar question that I put to the Minister in 2016, she replied that the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, which had just been published, had an ambition that within one year we would not be reliant on emergency accommodation to house children and families. She went on to outline the support services that would be put in place to support those children until mid-2017, when they would no longer be in emergency accommodation. The services included access to early years services, education and nutritional needs, Tusla services, and supports for pregnant women. The Minister intended to move towards a sense of normality for those children. It was to be a political priority to avoid lasting damage to these children.

Of course, the fundamental solution to addressing child homelessness is to provide them with a home, not to rely on emergency accommodation. That was to be phased out by mid-2017 but it has worsened. Instead of having 2,177 children homeless, we now have 3,826 and the number is rising. When one considers that children move in and out of homelessness on a frequent basis, the figure is probably far greater than the 3,826 who are affected. This is my question to the Taoiseach: how does he respond to this appalling deterioration in child homelessness figures?

I think it is heart-breaking that so many children are living in emergency accommodation at any time of year, but particularly at this time of year. Even though they may go in and out of it quite quickly, as the Deputy said - perhaps six months or a year in some cases - that is still far too long and there are far too many cases.

I am unsure where the Deputy's projected figures come from. We know that in the most recent monthly figures the number of families who are homeless and the number of children who are homeless fell slightly. I hope that will continue in the coming months. The number of rough sleepers is also down. I recall the week when across the road from here on Molesworth Street John Corrie died in a doorway. At that time there were approximately 168 rough sleepers in Dublin. The most recent figures show that this figure has fallen to approximately 92. Many of these are people who need a great deal of support and it is hard to get them in.

However, it demonstrates some of the progress that has been made. The rough sleeping is now down to its lowest level in approximately five years, but this is certainly a problem that is a real blight on our society, as the Deputy described.

When one talks about the fact that there are 10,000 people living in emergency accommodation, we should not forget that 14,000 people have been brought out of emergency accommodation, have been housed by the Government and are now in secure accommodation, and it is not the same 10,000 all the time. In fact, more people have been taken out of homelessness into secure housing now than are homeless but, unfortunately, people continue to become homeless every day and every week.

Deputy Harty asked how we respond. We respond in two ways. Provided in budget 2020, which the Deputy did not vote for, is €160 million in funding for the charities and agencies that work with us, both to prevent people becoming homeless in the first place - half of people are now prevented from becoming homeless in the first place - but also to help them through emergency accommodation, to run the family hubs and to then get out of emergency accommodation. That is not something the Deputy supported or voted for.

The second way is in stepping up our investment in social housing. Three years ago when this Government came to office, maybe 3,000 or 4,000 were being added to the social housing stock every year. That is up to 10,000 this year. It will be 11,000 next year and 12,000 the year after that. Not in any year this century have more houses been added to the social housing stock than this year. We will do better again next year and better again the year after. However, as the Central Bank pointed out today, we are catching up on a massive deficit. A country, such as Ireland, with our population and demographics should be adding 35,000 houses to its housing stock every year. We are not there yet. We have trebled the amount of supply, up from 7,000 a year three and a half years ago to more than 20,000 now. We will get to 25,000 next year. We will get up to 35,000. If we could do it quicker, if there was a cheque I could sign, a button I could press or a lever I could pull, we would have done it by now.

The Taoiseach is seven or eight years in government.

Our housing market was destroyed. Our construction industry was destroyed.

The Taoiseach has only had seven or eight years in government.

Our banks were bust. Our Government was bust. We had a seven-year period when almost no homes were built in Ireland.

The question was about children.

The Taoiseach was there for seven years.

Two hundred thousand homes should have been built.

Will Deputy Cowen go to the State's bank?

It was their seven years.

No matter what anyone may say, it will take us many years to recover from that.

A Deputy

We shut you up, Barry.

The party is over, boys.

Deputy Barry Cowen is all about the party, is he not?

As I stated at the outset, my question was about children and child homelessness. The Royal College of Physicians has produced a report, The Impact of Homelessness and Inadequate Housing on Children's Health. The reason I was addressing my question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, not the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government - it was transferred and I have no control over that - was that it was specifically about child homelessness and its impact on their health. It causes serious mental and physical illness to children who are in persistent homelessness. Some 25% are at an increased risk of physical and mental ill-health. There is a higher risk of pre-term pregnancies in women who are pregnant in homeless accommodation. There are higher rates of asthma, respiratory illness and infectious diseases, poor nutrition, and less access to development opportunities, play and recreational and social activities. They are more likely to be bullied. These effects on children's health go way beyond their childhood and go into their adult lives. These children are our future.

The Taoiseach's response failed to address any of the issues I raised. He failed to explain how, in 2017, we were not going to rely on emergency accommodation to house children and yet the figures have almost doubled in the lifetime of this Government.

I think I am correct in saying that when this Government came to office, or certainly when the current Minister came to office, the number of people in emergency accommodation was 8,000. It is now 10,000. That is not quite a doubling but it has got worse - there is no denying that - despite our best efforts.

In terms of what we have been trying to do to alleviate the situation, the most important thing is preventing people becoming homeless in the first place. As I mentioned, because we fund and work with so many charities and NGOs, we are able to prevent half of people becoming homeless in the first place. That is a significant change from where we were a few years ago. We have also invested in the family hubs, precisely because we accept that hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation is inadequate. Whereas family hubs are by no means perfect, they are better.

They give people dignity, their own door, their own cooking facilities, and their own play areas. I have been to visit them and I have seen them for myself. The people who spend time in family hubs get out of them into permanent housing much quicker than those who self-accommodate. Above and beyond all that, the solution has to be more supply of social housing, so we can take people off the housing list and out of emergency accommodation, more supply of private housing so that people have homes to buy, as most people want to buy their own home, and also more homes for people to rent because lots of people will need to rent at some point in their life. We need to get to the point where we are building approximately 35,000 new homes in Ireland every year, as the Central Bank said. We have trebled housing supply just under the term of this Government of Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance.

The Taoiseach should use the word "children". He should make it real. They are called children.

We need to do more and we will do more.