I propose to take Questions Nos. 376 and 389 together.
The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term support to eligible persons 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. There are currently approximately 78,000 rent supplement recipients for which the Government has provided in excess of €344 million in 2014. The Department’s role with regard to persons who are homeless is mainly income maintenance. Under the social welfare system, homeless people have entitlements to the full range of social welfare schemes, including supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) and associated supplements, subject to the normal qualifying conditions. Under the Exceptional Needs Payments (ENPs) assistance may be provided towards rent deposits. This form of assistance is very important to those on low incomes who are at risk of, or who are homeless, or who rely on the private rented market to meet their housing needs. In 2013, some 4,300 people were assisted with rent deposits at a cost of €2.1 million.
The Community Welfare Services, including through its work in the Homeless Persons Unit (HPU) and the Asylum Seekers & New Communities Unit, already works closely with local authorities and other stakeholders to facilitate homeless persons to access private rented accommodation. This ensures that where possible, people are diverted away from homeless services and towards community-based supports.
The Dublin local authorities are currently engaging with the Department in developing a further interagency intervention system to identify vulnerable families who are in receipt of rent supplement and at risk of becoming homeless due to the imminent loss of their tenancy to ensure that the necessary supports can be put in place. The detail of this process and the necessary reporting requirements are currently being worked out between the various organisations.
This Department is represented on the Homelessness Implementation Team, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which will ensure greater integration between the key agencies involved in the area of homelessness as recommended by the First Report of the Homelessness Oversight Group.