Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Questions (47, 50, 52, 53, 93)

Richard Boyd Barrett


47. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he has read the recent report on the effect of homelessness on the development of children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51871/19]

View answer

Bernard Durkan


50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the extent to which the number of families on local authority housing lists and deemed to be homeless for any reason; his plans to meet their housing requirements in the short and medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51827/19]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan


52. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the average length of time families are being kept in family hubs before being accommodated in housing; the number of exits from family hubs in each year; the reason for the exits, for example, housed, exit into HAP tenancy, exited homeless services, housed in voluntary housing body or local authority housing and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51109/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith


53. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of children in emergency accommodation in each local authority area; the average period of time spent by children in accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51864/19]

View answer

Michael Harty


93. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the way in which he plans to respond to the deterioration in the number of children without a permanent home (details supplied). [51276/19]

View answer

Oral answers (20 contributions) (Question to Housing)

There are many unacceptable manifestations of the housing and homelessness emergency, which the Minister's policies have generated, but the most upsetting is the plight of children in emergency accommodation or who are homeless. A number of reports from the Royal College of Physicians and from housing NGOs have exposed the shocking extent to which children in homeless accommodation are being neglected and that their development is being seriously affected. What is the Minister going to do to protect these children?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 50, 52, 53 and 93 together.

Rebuilding Ireland is designed to significantly increase the supply of social housing by 50,000 homes in the period to 2021, to double the output of overall housing to at least 25,000 homes per year by 2020, support all tenure types - social, private, rental - and tackle homelessness comprehensively. In 2018, 8,000 new social homes were delivered nationally, and this year, a further 10,000 new social homes will be added to the stock. Delivery will increase again to more than 11,000 homes next year and 12,000 in 2021. In fact, next year will see the delivery of 7,500 new build social housing homes, the highest level this century. The Housing Agency has provided my Department with a report on the summary of social housing assessments, SSHA, for 2019. The report shows that 68,693 households were qualified and in need of social housing support in June of this year. That is a reduction of 25% over the last three years and a trend which is expected to continue in the coming years. The reduction reflects the significantly increased level of social housing activity being delivered through Rebuilding Ireland under which more than 90,000 households across the country have had their housing needs met from 2016 to the end of the third quarter of this year. In 2018 alone, just over 27,100 households were supported, which was 6% ahead of the overall target for the year, and we are aiming again to support more than 27,000 households this year.

Supporting families experiencing homelessness is a priority for the Government, for me and my Department, in particular. My Department continues to work closely and proactively with the local authorities and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that we provide the necessary supports to deliver homes for all the families currently experiencing homelessness. For so long as any individual or family experiences homelessness, I am determined to ensure that the most appropriate emergency accommodation is available.

In regard to family homelessness, my Department is working with the local authorities to support the introduction of family hubs, 30 of which are already in operation, providing almost 690 spaces for family accommodation. Local authorities and their service delivery partners work with families in the hubs to secure a home, with an objective to do so within a six-month period. However, in some cases it can take longer due to the housing requirements or preferences of a family. The monthly reports submitted by the local authorities to my Department do not currently provide detailed information on the length of time spent by families in emergency accommodation. However, the latest information drawn from a separate local authority performance reporting mechanism shows that 38% of adults in emergency accommodation at the end of September 2019 had been there for fewer than six months. Additional data provided by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, at the end of September 2019-----

You will have a further opportunity.

There are a number of questions grouped.

I understood that when we grouped questions, my reply could be-----

I want to let Deputy Boyd Barrett in to ask a supplementary question. You will have an opportunity to finish. Is that all right?

I thank the Acting Chairman.

Deputy Boyd Barrett has one minute.

People are fed up of hearing the Minister reel off statistics and claim achievements when it is blatantly obvious to everybody that the housing and homelessness emergency is worse than it has ever been. In terms of social housing delivery output, let me repeat that in my area, next year, two council houses will be built. If one includes AHBs, it will be 13. That is how much new delivery we are getting, which is down on the previous year. What I asked the Minister about was not statistics. It was about the plight of children. I refer to higher risk of pre-term pregnancy and low birth weight, higher rates of asthma respiratory illness and infectious diseases, poor nutrition and obesity, less access to developmental opportunities, play and recreation and social activities, poorer emotional and mental health and increased behavioural difficulties, less access to preventative health care and lower rates of childhood immunisation, poorer educational opportunities-----

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett.

-----difficulties in relationships between parents and their children, and children born into homelessness unable to swallow, unable to learn how to crawl. Does the Minister think that is acceptable? What is he going to do to get children out of that abusive situation?

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. The Deputy is well able to use statistics when they suit him. Facts matter, and behind each of the numbers that I mentioned is a family, a child or an individual who has been helped because of our plans. There are now fewer than 100 people sleeping rough on our streets, which is too many, but it is a very important reduction. It has not been that low since 2015. We have gotten people off the streets and into homes. For every two families that presented to homeless services this year, we prevented one family immediately from going into emergency accommodation. That is important. It is important that people know that we are focusing on preventing people from going into emergency accommodation.

If one is in a family hub, on average one will spend six months in emergency accommodation and the majority of people in emergency accommodation throughout the system are there for less than a year. This is important as well, because it was not always that way. If it was not for the programmes we were bringing in, people would be suffering far longer in emergency accommodation. One of the very first cases I have dealt with as Minister - I was in the job a week - was in relation to children not having enough crawl space and not developing their motor neuron skills because they were in the wrong type of emergency accommodation. That is why we have expanded the hub programme. That is why we are expanding social housing delivery. There have been 10,000 social housing homes this year and families are getting keys to move into those homes.

That is how we solve this crisis.

I call Deputy Boyd Barrett for a final comment.

This report is from the Royal College of Physicians. I think it knows a thing or two about the development of children and this is what it is saying is the children who spent time in homelessness accommodation. I put in parliamentary questions and I am expecting answers tomorrow, although the Minister just indicated we will not get those answers. How many children - we know there are 4,000 currently in homeless accommodation - have spent time in emergency hubs since this Government came into office? I would like to know that, because it is multiples of 4,000. What the Royal College of Physicians is saying is that the life opportunities of these children and their development opportunities and trajectories will be forever affected by this experience of being in emergency accommodation. That situation has gotten worse, not better, in recent months and it has gotten steadily worse during the course of this Government's term of office.

I have to dispute the comments Deputy Boyd Barrett has made. Supply is the answer and supply is increasing. One should look at the numbers going into emergency accommodation since I came into office and the numbers today. Yes, an increase in the region of 2,500 is unacceptable, but in that same period, 12,000 people left homelessness.

That would not have been possible if we were not putting this huge amount of work into what we are doing. If we were not putting in place all these supports, such as those for the 27,000 households we will support this year with keys for homes, the numbers in emergency accommodation would be far higher. We need to bring them down. Supply is the answer to doing so, and we continue to drive that supply each year. It will only increase next year, as it did this year on the previous year.

Not in Dún Laoghaire.