I thank Deputy Tóibín for raising this matter. While different personal, financial and social reasons can contribute to a person becoming homeless, for those involved the effects on their personal life are similarly traumatic and disabling. Societally, the ramifications of homelessness are also equally as destructive and costly. For this reason, I am strongly focused on achieving the Government's ambitious goal of ending long-term homelessness.
In February 2013, I published the Government's homelessness policy statement which set out the aim of ending long-term homelessness by the end of 2016. The statement emphasises a housing-led approach, which is about accessing permanent housing as the primary response to all forms of homelessness. The availability and supply of secure, affordable and adequate housing is essential in ensuring sustainable tenancies and ending long-term homelessness.
The homelessness oversight group, which I established in 2013 for the purposes of reviewing the progress of the approach being advocated in the statement, identifying obstacles and proposing solutions, has submitted its first report to me. The report considered the prevention of homelessness, the families presenting as homeless and housing supply. A copy of the report is available on my Department's website.
On 25 February 2014, the Government approved the establishment of a homelessness policy implementation team and an implementation unit. The team is tasked with implementing the oversight group's first report. This will include the preparation and publication of a structured, practical plan to make the transition from a shelter-led to a sustainable housing-led response to homelessness and achieve the 2016 goals for homelessness.
The implementation team is representative of the key State agencies dealing with homelessness, housing and related services because the solutions to homelessness do not solely reside in my Department.
The team is being led by my Department and includes a senior official from the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive, as well as the managers of Dublin City Council and Monaghan County Council, representing local authorities. The team will report on this plan to the Cabinet committee on social policy later this month and quarterly thereafter.
I am acutely aware of the significant number of families now presenting as homeless in the Dublin region owing to economic difficulties, job loss, a decline in house supply and, as mentioned by Deputy Tóibín, relationship breakdown. More than half a billion euro in funding is being made available through my Department in 2014 across a range of housing programmes and I expect that in the region of 5,000 social housing units will be provided this year. I am committed to continuing to develop innovative and sustainable approaches to the provision of social housing. I want to see an increase in the supply of new social homes and to ensure that every available appropriate unit that exists is transformed into a home as quickly as is reasonably possible. Included in this is the transfer of NAMA units, in respect of which 596 were provided to the end of 2013.
On the specific issue raised by the Deputy, the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provide that a household with alternative accommodation that would meet its housing need is ineligible for social housing support, but the regulations clarify that paragraph (1) does not operate to exclude from eligibility for social housing support an applicant who owns accommodation that is occupied by his or her spouse, from whom he or she is formally separated or divorced. Under the enactment, a deed of separation is sufficient to set aside this ineligibility ground and it is not necessary to await judicial separation or divorce to get a decision on social housing support in these cases. I am aware that there are people who do not have a deed of separation. The legislation operates satisfactorily in most cases. However, I am currently considering in the context of the housing (miscellaneous provisions) Bill currently in preparation, whether legislative change is warranted to deal with exceptional cases that present difficulties under the current arrangements. I am examining whether it is possible to provide for greater flexibility in this regard.