I propose to take Questions Nos. 350 and 351 together.
The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The aim is to provide short term assistance, and not to act as an alternative to the other social housing schemes operated by the Exchequer. There are approximately 92,000 persons in receipt of rent supplement for which the Government has provided a sum of €436 million for 2012.
The revised rent limits are applicable to new rent supplement tenancies from January 2012 and existing tenancies on review. Approximately 25,000 rent supplement claims have been awarded in 2012, representing over 27% of total claims in payment, indicating that accommodation can be secured within the new limits.
Where a claim is under review and the rent is above the maximum limit the customer is being asked to contact the landlord to renegotiate the rent. Where a landlord does not agree to reduce the rent to the new rates departmental officials will discuss the options open to the tenant up to and including seeking alternative accommodation. Departmental guidance to the officers administering rent supplement states that where negotiation with the landlord fails then rent supplement may continue to be paid for a period of up to thirteen weeks at the higher rate. Officials administering the scheme advise that customers are securing alternative accommodation in such cases. However, data on the numbers who have secured alternative accommodation is not available.
The Department is continuing to monitor on a weekly basis the availability of rental properties within the revised limits across the country.