I propose to take Questions Nos. 1179, 1180, 1183 to 1186, inclusive, 1188 to 1191, inclusive, 1251, 1277, 1279, 1281, 1283 and 1286 together.
Responsibility for the development and provision of services to support victims of domestic violence rests with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
The co-ordination of the services addressing the needs of these customers is managed by The Child and Family Agency, Tusla. Victims of domestic violence accommodation needs are met through this joined-up service delivery model provided by Tusla with the close involvement of the various housing authorities nationwide.
A housing authority can provide, on a humanitarian basis, short-term emergency housing to persons who are unable to return to their homes because of domestic violence without having to assess their eligibility for social housing support or include them on the authority’s waiting list for housing supports.
Generally, where a victim is not seeking to return to the family home, a social housing assessment by the housing authority is the appropriate response. Assessments should be conducted in a timely manner to ensure that victims do not end up residing in emergency accommodation, including refuge facilities, for long periods of time. Once a customer has successfully completed a housing needs assessment, they can then apply for HAP.
As part of this response, Tusla funds and supports over 40 organisations providing support services to victims of domestic violence, including 20 refuges providing safe specialist emergency domestic violence accommodation. Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence Services, and in particular, Domestic Violence refuges have been identified as one of Tusla’s three highest priority services in its crisis management responses to the period of Covid-19 public health measures. A range of supports have been put in place to assure continuity of essential services and there is ongoing systematic engagement between Tusla and service provider organisations around emerging needs.
Since the introduction of HAP, Rent Supplement continues to revert to original role of providing short-term support to those who have become temporarily unemployed and require income support to meet their tenancy cost whilst they seek alternative employment. Rent supplement, by virtue of its short-term nature and its targeted customer cohort, is not considered the principal solution in meeting the accommodation needs of those fleeing domestic or sexual violence, in particular where, following a Housing Needs Assessment, HAP is an available option.
There are no indications within my department that the rent supplement scheme is operating in a way that is preventing victims of domestic violence from getting the support they need, and Community Welfare Officers are using the full flexibility of the scheme to assist those in need during the current crisis.
Notwithstanding the above, my department does provide support to customers of domestic violence. Under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme (SWA), Exceptional Needs Payments (ENP) / Urgent Needs Payments (UNP) are available to meet essential once-off cost for customers who are unable to meet these out of their own resources. Where a person’s safety and well-being are at risk due to domestic violence, department officials operating SWA have discretionary powers to provide ENPs / UNPs to address the person’s immediate needs. It is expected that whilst the Department is providing support, the person concerned can transition safely to the relevant agencies and supports that provide the tailored support that they require.
Officials in my Department continue to liaise with their colleagues in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs / Tusla, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Housing Planning and Local Government to ensure that victims of domestic violence have appropriate supports including access to local authority sponsored housing via HAP.
Should the Deputy have a particular case in mind I would ask him/her to share the details with me and I will have it assessed without delay.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.