My Department’s role in terms of homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility for the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.
Traditionally it has been difficult to quantify the number of homeless persons on an on-going basis; this is in part a consequence of the volatility within this cohort of housing need. The Pathway Accommodation and Support System (PASS) was extended nationally in 2013 and is now operational nationwide. PASS will assist housing authorities to report on the dynamics of homelessness as it is addressed and 2014 will be the first year for which PASS will produce composite national data. These reports will be published on my Department's website as soon as they are available.
In February 2013 I published the Government’s Homelessness Policy Statement in which the aim to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016 was outlined. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness.
The Homelessness Oversight Group, which I established in 2013 for the purposes of reviewing the progress of the approach being advocated in the statement, identifying obstacles and proposing solutions, has submitted its first report to me. The report considered the prevention of homelessness as well as families presenting as homeless. A copy of this report is available on my Department's website, www.environ.ie.
On 25 February 2014, the Government approved the establishment of a Homelessness Policy Implementation Team and an implementation unit. The team is tasked with implementing the Homelessness Oversight Group's First Report. This will include the preparation and publication of a structured, practical plan to make the transition from a shelter-led to a sustainable housing-led response to homelessness and to achieve the 2016 goals for homelessness. This plan will be a practically focused delivery plan to secure a ring-fenced supply of accommodation to house homeless households within the next three years and mobilise the necessary supports. It will contain actions that will be direct, immediate and solutions based.
The implementation team is representative of the key State agencies dealing with homelessness, housing and related services because the solutions to homelessness do not solely reside in my Department. The team is being led by my Department and it includes a senior official from the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive as well as the Managers of Dublin City Council and Monaghan County Council, representing local authorities. The team will report on this plan to the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy in April 2014 and quarterly thereafter.
I am acutely aware of the significant number of families now presenting as homeless in the Dublin region and the extremely challenging situation that this is presenting to Dublin City Council. My Department is working with Dublin City Council on measures to address this emerging situation and the plan will incorporate actions to address this and other accommodation related issues.