Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (40)

Peadar Tóibín


40. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the amount of funding allocated to each local authority and to approved housing bodies to construct social housing for persons with disabilities; and the amount provided to each local authority for each of the past five years. [38636/20]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Housing)

People with disabilities are more than twice as likely to face discrimination relating to housing and they are 1.6 times more likely to live in poor conditions. They live in damp housing and housing that lacks central heating and they also live in areas with significant problems. A total of 25% of people forced to live homeless on our streets have a disability. This is a rate far higher than is in the general population. More than 1,000 people with disabilities under the age of 65, and this is startling, live inappropriately in nursing homes.

I am fully committed to ensuring that accessible social homes are available to persons with disabilities. Budget 2021 has made available €3.3 billion towards a wide range of housing programmes that will deliver 12,750 new social homes for next year. A record 9,500 of these homes will be new build homes, designed and planned using guidelines, build standards and planning regulations supported by the Department. In respect of construction funding over the period from 2016 to 2019, the Department provided almost €2.1 billion to local authorities to deliver new social homes, including new homes for people with disabilities. I will arrange for the officials to provide the Deputy with a breakdown, by local authority. The detailed breakdown of housing funding for 2020 will be finalised at the year's end.

The capital assistance scheme is a key programme of delivery of homes for persons with disabilities. The Department also provides a range of specialised grants, including housing adaptation grants for people with a disability of up to €30,000 to assist them to have necessary adaptations, repairs or improvement works carried out. The mobility aids grant scheme is available to fast-track grants of up to €6,000 to cover a suite of basic measures and works to help and assist with mobility problems for any member of a household.

It is also worth noting the national housing strategy for people with a disability is due to be reviewed in 2021 and an advisory group is due to meet before the end of this year to assess the pathway to go forward. Each local authority, as the Deputy will be aware, has a housing and disability steering group that includes a director of services of housing, the chair of the council and members of the HSE. This is due to meet a minimum of four times each calendar year.

It is important to look at the facts. Between 2,000 and 4,000 people with disabilities are living in congregated settings with ten or more people. This is before we look at the hidden homeless, who are people with disabilities living in the homes of family or friends. Many of them have no expectation of independent living because of the fact those homes may not be suitable for them.

Assessment carried out by the Department has shown there has been a significant increase between 2013 and now of those with disabilities who are in housing need. While I appreciate a certain level of development has happened with regard to assessment, it is radically necessary that we invest in making homes accessible to people with disabilities. The Minister of State mentioned the money going into adaptation grants. A sum of €70 million between 31 local authorities is the total amount. When we break it up between 31 local authorities, it is small money. Each year, the demand for this money far exceeds the supply. Local authorities often break it up into lists and typically they do not get past the first list.

As I said, the committee will meet before the end of the year to review the process. I remind the Deputy we have increased funding for adaptation grants consistently over recent years. There was a 19% increase from 2019 to 2020 and it has been increased again for next year. It will be €75 million in 2021. Money has been put behind this. If local authorities are short of money for funding streams, there is additional money for which they can apply through the Department. It is very important this money is spent and that local authorities are proactive in this regard. Local authority members need to drive forward these expenditure patterns. As I have said, the processes are in place and it is up to the local authorities to execute them. We have significant funding and, even in difficult times, funding has been increased. Each year from 2019 to 2021 the funding has been increased. The Minister secured an increase for 2021, which will ease people's issues in terms of mobility and in terms of new builds. These are key with regard to the measures being brought forward by the Government.

I welcome the fact there has been an increase in funding over recent years. Typically in recent years when Governments have quoted increases, they have come from a phenomenally low base. These budgets were slashed significantly after 2011 and stayed extremely low until 2013 and 2014. Independent Living Movement Ireland has assessed local authorities on a sliding scale with regard to how good they are at providing housing and services to people with disabilities. They indicate that two councils, that is, 6% of all councils, were very good at delivering housing. It stated 94% of councils were either average or poor at delivering housing or adaptations for people with disabilities. It rated a total of 65% of councils as poor and nine councils were rated average. If 65% of councils are being rated as poor by those living this experience, it sends a very strong message that we have to listen to in the Chamber. All the reviews in the world will not do what is necessary until we do one thing, which is to match delivery of budget with the need and this is still not there.

I absolutely disagree with that contention because if we look at the facts, 10,023 households directly benefited from interventions by the Department with regard to disabilities. We will increase this to more than 10,500 in 2021 because of the significant increase in the budget in recent years. With regard to local authority delivery, a steering group has been established in each of 31 local authorities that can assess why delivery is not as expected if they are not drawing down their funding. This is supposed to meet four times a year. Our review on national policy will be implemented next year. As I said, we will have a meeting before the end of 2020 in this regard. Significant funding is there and it is up to the local authorities to drive that funding and spend it, and up to the groups and processes they have in place to ensure the money is spent properly.