Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (43)

Chris Andrews


43. Deputy Chris Andrews asked the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage the amount of funding granted by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive, DRHE, to day services in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38478/20]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Housing)

Homeless day services are an important element in addressing homelessness. In many ways, they are underutilised and their importance is underestimated. I ask the Minister the amount of funding granted by the DRHE to day services in the past 12 months.

I thank the Deputy for his question. He is correct that day services are crucial. My Department's role is to provide a framework of policy, legislation and funding to support housing authorities to address homelessness locally. To that end, I secured a further €60 million in a Supplementary Estimate for additional Covid-19 measures just the week before last, bringing the total funding for homeless services to €256 million. The Government was not found wanting in taking on the challenge of Covid to protect our most vulnerable - our homeless community.

Local decisions on sourcing, operating and funding homeless accommodation and related services are a matter for local authorities. My Department does not fund homeless services directly but contributes towards overall costs incurred by housing authorities in their provision. Under the funding arrangements, housing authorities must provide at least 10% of the cost of services and may also incur additional expenditure. The precise amounts spent by housing authorities on homeless services, including day services, are, therefore, a matter for the individual housing authorities.

The DRHE provides a shared service of behalf of the four local authorities in the Dublin region. Some €121 million was provided in Exchequer funding to the Dublin region in 2019, with €160 million recouped to date in 2020. Certified end of year financial reports for 2019, broken down by region, are available on my Department's website and I will provide them for the Deputy. These reports include a breakdown of expenditure in each region, including day services. The DRHE financial report shows that €5.1 million in expenditure was incurred on day services in 2019. It estimates the total cost for provision of day services in 2020 will be in the region of €3.4 million, with expenditure incurred, to the end of the third quarter, of €2.8 million. End of year certified financial reports for 2020 will be published in January or February 2021.

I thank the Minister. There is currently no mechanism through which an organisation can apply for funding through or from the DRHE, and that needs to change. The Minister mentioned day services. During the pandemic and during this winter, there has been no open access homeless day service for rough sleepers operating in Dublin through funding from the DRHE. That is a big gap. There are day services like Merchants Quay, but they do not allow anyone into their premises. They provide takeaway sandwiches, which are left on the footpath, and there are no showers. That needs to be addressed. No support is offered to a person rough sleeping in Dublin who may be from Bray, Banagher or Cork.

They are deemed ineligible but it is important to remember that no one is ineligible when it comes to becoming homeless. This issue needs to be addressed. I suggest that the Minister visits the Mendicity Institution, which is not funded by the DRHE but opens late seven days a week.

I visited many of the outreach centres all across Dublin. I chair the homelessness delivery task force, which is made up of many of our homeless partners such as Focus Ireland, Depaul Ireland, Dublin Simon Community, Peter McVerry Trust and many others, and we meet on a biweekly basis.

Funding is not an issue. We have an issue with the funding for some of the section 10 organisations, which I am also looking at. I have visited centres during the day, including very recently, where activities and services are provided for those who need them now. We have an additional €60 million funding this year on top of what was an increased amount. If there are any specific items the Deputy wishes to bring to my attention or issues with regard to a particular service accessing funding, he should feel free to bring them to me. We will examine them in the context of our overall homeless strategy. We cannot fund every single group. That is why it is done through the local authorities, which have the boots on the ground. I am happy to look at any particular items the Deputy brings to my attention.

I appreciate that. I reiterate that the administration of funding by the DRHE and the way it determines who it funds needs to be examined. I invite the Minister to visit the Mendicity Institution, which is open. It is more than 200 years in existence so it has a strong track record. It provides shelter and support because somebody homeless who arrives from outside of Dublin is not given any supports and is deemed ineligible. That is not acceptable. People arrive in Dublin for particularly complex reasons and to say they are ineligible does not cut it in this day and age. They are not even assessed. They are not even given a bed for one night. That needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I urge the Minister to examine that and make something happen in respect of it.

A priority for me and for this Government is to continue the fight against homelessness. That is the reason we have put unprecedented resources into that particular area. Thankfully, even since early April this year, we have seen a continued reduction in both family and singles homelessness and in respect of children. That is a trend we want to continue. That is the reason we need to ramp up exits from homelessness. So far this year we have had more than 4,300 exits from homelessness and we are targeting 6,000 for next year. It is a job we have got to tackle. Where the Deputy is talking about funding for day services, no one is being turned away. When people move to Dublin from other areas of the country, there are issues about the way that is managed. I get the point the Deputy is making but it is important that we know there is emergency bed capacity in every city and every region in the country. The winter plan is in place. There is additional capacity, and I check that every single week. I hope we get to a stage where we do not need those types of facilities, which I have visited. There is capacity right now for people in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and all our major cities so no one, with the assistance of the State, should be sleeping rough. There are facilities in place for them.