Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Vol. 969 No. 2

Topical Issue Debate

Services for People with Disabilities

I have been contacted by the campaign co-ordinators of Down Syndrome Ireland's Meath-Louth branch about the Health Service Executive's devastating decision to cut its funding by 60%. The branch provides a vital programme for children with Down's syndrome aged between one and five years. There are 52 children enrolled in the programme, under which early intervention specialists visit the homes of children with Down's syndrome for 90 minutes every two weeks throughout the year. The specialists work with the child and his or her parents, providing a wealth of knowledge, experience and support. The goal is to ensure every child reaches his or her full potential and is equipped to lead as independent a life as possible in adulthood.

The early intervention programme does not have administration costs as it has been run by parents on a voluntary basis since its establishment in 1982. For 36 years it has provided great support for children and parents. Of the €75,000 it costs each year to provide services for more than 50 children, approximately €50,000 is raised by parents, with the balance of €25,000 being met until now by HSE funding from lottery grant money. In January the HSE reduced the grant it provides from €25,000 to €10,000, or by 60%. It is extremely unfortunate that this meaningful and necessary programme will have to consider what impact the cut in funding will have. It is highly likely the branch will have to reduce the number of home visits made to children for the first time since the programme began. That would be devastating for the 52 families involved. The €15,000 the programme will lose is a significant amount and goes a long way towards helping children with Down's syndrome and their families.

In recent years the organisation has shielded this vital programme from cuts because of a decline in fundraising income. Unfortunately, it may no longer be possible to do so from September onwards. We do not want children with special needs to fall behind. Early intervention is vital and the specialists provide speech and language therapy and teach basic skills such as how to hold a pencil. The aim is to allow the children to start primary school at the age of five or six years on the same terms as children without special needs.

Parents raise €50,000 per annum for the programme, which is a substantial amount of money. In fairness to the Health Service Executive, for some years it also provided €25,000 in annual funding before this funding was cut at the stroke of a pen. As I stated, the Meath-Louth branch of Down Syndrome Ireland has been operating for 36 years. It is an extremely important organisation and we must ensure it can continue.

I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue.

On behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for disabilities, Deputy Finian McGrath, who cannot be here, and also the Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for mental health and older people, Deputy Jim Daly, who is currently in the Seanad, I am happy to outline the position on funding for the Louth-Meath Down Syndrome Ireland branch.

The Louth-Meath branch is one of 25 branches of Down Syndrome Ireland. The goal of the Louth-Meath branch is to help those with Down's syndrome make their own futures as bright and independent as possible by providing them with education, support and friendship every step along the way.

The branch manages an early intervention home teacher programme for preschool children aged from one year to six years with Down's syndrome in counties Louth and Meath. The branch, in co-operation with Clinical Assessment Therapy and Training Services, CATTS, Ireland also runs a speech and language-occupational therapy programme.

Over the past number of years, the HSE has provided lottery grants to the Louth-Meath branch of Down Syndrome Ireland.

In 2015, the number of lottery grant applications increased significantly, in fact, by 200% on 2014 applications, and it was necessary to review the amount of lottery funding to organisations in order to accommodate this higher number.

Initially, in 2016, a number of organisations which applied for lottery funding were advised of reductions in the grants being approved. However, this reduction was reversed and the grant was restored pending a review of the overall funding allocation process. The disability manager then met the DSI Louth-Meath branch and agreed the funding allocation for 2016 and subsequently for 2017.

The Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, met officials from the HSE on Monday afternoon and was informed that the HSE has committed to continue to fund DSI Louth-Meath branch for 2018, based on the previous year's allocation pending the completion of a review of the overall funding allocation process in line with the criteria for allocation of the national lottery grants.

This early intervention therapy programme over the past 36 years has been managed on a completely voluntary basis by parents of children with Down's syndrome.

Last month, The Irish Times published an article which described early intervention as vital for children with special needs. Without it, children with Down's syndrome will fall further behind with life-long effects on levels of independence.

Early intervention, if provided at the levels needed, allow children with Down's syndrome to reach their full potential with a view to leading lives as independent as possible as adults. This would reduce the need for interaction with adult disability services in later life leading to savings in future HSE budgets.

It is getting more likely that the branch will have to reduce the number of home visits its earlier intervention specialist makes to children on the programme for the first time since the programme began in 1982. This will have a detrimental effect on the 52 children who greatly benefit from participation on the programme and will increase demands on already overstretched State early intervention services provided by Enable Ireland and the HSE.

I am disappointed with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath. He was always the one to stand up for Down Syndrome Ireland.

We have 52 families in Louth and Meath who are looking for a bit of help. The families are not afraid to put their hands in their pockets. We are getting money from the lottery. Fifteen thousand euro is not too much to ask from the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and the Department. If one looks over the past number of months, the amount of money that the HSE and the Department of Health are squandering is an absolute disgrace.

These children with Down's syndrome deserve their rights. The families are working hard. Everyone involved is working hard. We are not asking the HSE to come and educate the children. These specialists are organised to call to these children's houses every second week during the school year for those up to six years of age. All the parents want is to help these children with special needs.

On behalf of the 52 children and their families who benefit greatly from this parent-led programme, what can be done to reverse this devastating 60% funding cut? I know a 60% cut sounds like a great deal and €15,000 is a great deal of money, but the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, will definitely have to dig into his pocket. I beg him to just give the €15,000.

While it is not an area for which the Department in which I am Minister of State is responsible, I have something of an in-depth knowledge of the matter because I have a cousin in another branch who is looked after very well.

As I stated, the HSE has committed to continue to fund Down Syndrome Ireland's Louth-Meath branch for 2018 based on the previous year's allocation pending the completion of the review. Thirteen and a half thousand euro was dedicated to the early intervention home teacher programme 2016 and 2017 and this amount will continue to be allocated to the branch for this programme in 2018.

The HSE is currently engaged in a major reconfiguration of its existing therapy resources for children with disability into multidisciplinary geographically based teams as part of its national programme on progressing disability services for children and young people aged zero to 18 years. The key objective of this programme is to bring about equity of access to disability services and consistency of service delivery with a clear pathway for children with disabilities and their families to services regardless of where they live, what school they go to or the nature of the individual's difficulties. Evidence to date from the areas where this has been rolled out shows that the implementation of this programme continues to have a positive impact on the waiting lists, both for assessments and therapies.

Occupational Therapy Staff

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Doyle, to the House. It is not his fault. This is a matter specifically to do with health. It is good to have the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for food, forestry and horticulture here to give the response but it does not inspire confidence in the level of prioritisation we are giving to key matters when he should be engaged in important work in his own brief and he is being sent in here to give a pre-written response by some official in the Department.

I wrote, on 3 May, to the Minister in relation to a patient who has given her express permission to mention her name and wishes it to be mentioned. Ms Haughney lives in Sligo. She has cerebral palsy, asthma, arthritis and a shoulder complaint. The seriousness of the condition is such that she is in a wheelchair.

Under the Government's report, Time to Move on from Congregated Settings – A strategy for Community Inclusion, in 2011, Louise moved from residential care to independent living with a range of supports including physiotherapy, access to an occupational therapist on demand, home help hours or personal assistance hours. Obviously, she was given access to a wheelchair. She had a social worker, a case co-ordinator and a GP.

What has happened since is Louise has effectively been abandoned by the system. Through no fault of her own, she has not been provided with essential physiotherapy since 2015. She has had no access to occupational therapists since April 2017, despite requesting and urgently needing one since July 2017 given her condition, and an urgent requirement for a new mould for her wheelchair. She has no back-up wheelchair. She has had no social worker since August-September 2017 and she has no case co-ordinator since a year ago.

In a letter, Ms Haughney's GP states that in the past he sat around the table at primary care meetings, which are obviously time consuming, with all these individuals and it appears now that he is the only individual left on her primary care team. He writes that she has been abandoned by the system, stating that this is an absolute joke. The occupational therapist, who is the acting primary care occupational therapist, wrote back stating that she has seen some service users in Sligo town but just does not have the capacity to see Louise.

I put it to the Minister of State that if this was the subject of an "RTÉ Investigates" programme, which may not be far away, or an afternoon hearing on the Joe Duffy show, this Chamber would be alive with calls of condemnation for the fact that this vulnerable person has been abandoned by the system. Ms Haughney loves living independently and loves her home. She was thriving with the supports that were put in place that the Government and those it manages have stripped out.

Since this letter went to the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, on 3 May, I received the standard acknowledgement from the Department. I also sent a message to the director general of the HSE, now out of post, whose replacement referred it to the parliamentary affairs division.

In the meantime, nothing has happened to this lady. On the back of a referral from this doctor months ago, she was contacted by the community physiotherapist who, with an over-the-phone consultation, decided she needed to see an occupational therapist first before she saw the physiotherapist. We are going around in circles. I am beginning to know where all the managers are in our health service. They are all talking to each other, writing to each other and referring to one another and the people who need care are being abandoned.

I appreciate it is not the Minister of State's brief and it is not his fault he was sent here today but it is an indication of the level of autopilot and hands-off approach we are taking when it comes to individuals' care. She wanted her name mentioned; it is Louise Haughney of McNeill Drive, Sligo. I want to know by the end of the day that people have contacted her about occupational therapy, about moulding a new seat for her wheelchair, about providing the additional hours she needs and about providing the physiotherapy, occupational therapy and all other services she needs because it is unacceptable. If I do not hear from her today, I will telephone the people from RTÉ "Prime Time Investigates" and bring them to visit her at her home.

I thank Deputy MacSharry for raising the matter and for articulating the issue in the context of a real life that has been affected. I am here on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath.

The Government is committed to providing services and supports for people with disabilities that will empower them to live independent lives, provide greater independence in accessing the services they choose and enhance their ability to tailor the supports required to meet their needs and plan their lives. Significant resources have been invested by the health sector in disability services over the past number of years. As the Deputy will be aware, the overall health budget is in the order of €15.3 billion. Of this, the Health Service Executive has allocated funding of €1.772 billion to its disability service programme.

The HSE funds a range of community services and supports to enable each individual with a disability to achieve his or her full potential and to maximise independence. Services are provided in a variety of community and residential settings in partnership with service users, their families and carers and a range of statutory, non-statutory, voluntary and community groups. Voluntary agencies provide the majority of services in partnership with, and on behalf of, the Health Service Executive. The Minister of State, Deputy McGrath, has been advised by the HSE that a number of therapy positions in its Sligo-Leitrim physical and sensory disability services and its Sligo-Leitrim primary care services are unfilled at present. These posts include a neurological case co-ordinator key-worker position as well as vacancies in social work and occupational therapy. The Minister of State fully appreciates the pressures that these vacancies are placing on service delivery. However, he has been assured by the HSE that a process is under way to address these staffing deficits. It is being progressed by the HSE through both its national recruitment service and its human resources department.

In terms of specific services, this Government has committed to increasing the number of occupational therapists in primary care. Funding of over €1 million was allocated in the budget to provide for 40 additional occupational therapy posts to address waiting lists and improve access to services. These posts are due to be recruited from quarter three. Occupational therapists play an important role in primary care teams and work to meet the health needs of individuals, families and the community. Their role is to provide individual intervention, assessment, advice, therapy or retraining for patients in the appropriate setting such as their institution, home, work, school or other centres. The HSE has also established a service improvement group to develop a new model of provision for occupational therapy to ensure resources are effectively managed and service are maximised. The work of this group is nearly completed.

I know it is not the Minister of State's brief which is why I would love to be getting stuck in to the Minister of State who is responsible. These pre-prepared responses from the Department are always a celebration of all that is great and all the money that is being spent. I can tell the Minister of State one thing for certain. The money being spent is not being spent on the care of Louise Haughney, 10 McNeill Drive, Sligo town and that is a problem. Is it being spent on extra managers? We hired three new managers a week in 2017. There has been an 11% increase in senior managers since 2011 and a 50% increase in middle managers since 2013. We are over-complicating something that is very simple. Louise Haughney needs 45 hours per week personal assistance, physiotherapy as is required for her condition, occupational therapy, a social worker, a case co-ordinator, a back-up wheelchair and a mould for the seat of the wheelchair she is currently in. During Storm Ophelia, because somebody did not call to her house, she was confined to her bed for 19 hours, unable to avail of toilet facilities. We cannot stand over this. There is no announcement of resources, models or processes. Let us simplify what is simple. It is about having front-line staff in place and having them provide the care.

I will not walk out of here thinking it is dealt with. I expect the Minister of State to lift the phone to the Department and tell it to get someone on the case today. Louise Haughney needs progress. She has been abandoned by the system. The GP, in his own words, is now the only person left on her primary care team. He described it as a joke. The occupational therapy manager down there has been an acting primary care occupational therapy manager, through no fault of her own, for over a year because we are not filling these positions. Why are we not filling these positions? If we cannot find people, why are we not using the National Treatment Purchase Fund to procure people from the private sector to look after critically urgent cases such as this one?

On the Deputy's last point, I am not sure if the National Treatment Purchase Fund can recruit people for primary continuing care.

The Minister said he was considering it some months back so I hope it can be done.

That is fair enough. I was not sure about it. Anything the Deputy has said is on the record. I will ensure his concerns are communicated straight away to the Department.

I thank the Minister of State.

It is unacceptable that anybody will spend that length of time without any support especially during an incident when they probably feel very isolated. The primary care delivery model, which centres around social work, primary care, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, along with an individual's general practitioner, is something that needs to be strengthened but the real problem here is recruitment. The money has been allocated for 40 additional posts in occupational therapy. It is very important we ensure these positions are filled as quickly as possible and that the people are assigned to the relevant areas. As I said in my opening remarks, the Sligo-Leitrim area has a significant deficit in resources in terms of the skillsets needed for the delivery of a full independent living support package for individuals with significant challenges. The Deputy can take it from me that as far as I am concerned, it is something not just in Sligo and not just for the lady he mentioned, it is a priority and should be rolled out around the country.

Social and Affordable Housing Provision

The purpose of this Topical Issue matter is to ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, who has responsibility for regeneration, to discuss a social and affordable housing scheme model for two sites in particular, one in St. Michael's Estate and the other in Shanganagh, and that the scheme be publicly funded. The model we are proposing, which we have discussed before, is different from that which is being considered and which has been lauded by the Department for a good while. We propose that the sites be publicly funded to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and that we do not see, as the community in Inchicore, in particular, has seen, the collapse of the PPP model in St. Michael's Estate. Depending on the private sector left us in the mess we are still suffering from. Depending on it again would leave us at the mercy of those developers who are still plying their trade.

The model we are talking about brings benefits to the local society and society as a whole. I do not know how much the Minister of State knows about St. Michael's Estate. It was originally Richmond Barracks then Keogh Square. We want to make sure that the next chapter is totally different and that the local authority housing there is affordable to rent and affordable to purchase. Regeneration has been promised for many years and it is not just a question of homes but of society. We do not want to see hopes being built up and dashed again. Our proposal is aimed not only at helping those on the housing and homeless list but also those who are excluded from the housing list who cannot afford the obscene, higher-than-ever rents being demanded everywhere in the city and beyond and who cannot afford a mortgage for the few homes that are for sale because of the runaway prices.

The Minister of State knows we have been strongly critical of the land initiative model being used elsewhere in the city and country. This originated at a time when capital budgets were more constrained and local authorities were desperately trying to find some way to fund public housing. That is no longer the case and, according to the current senior Minister and his predecessor, money is no object and capital investment has increased.

There are very strong arguments why these developments in particular, Shanganah Castle in Dún Laoghaire and St. Michael's Estate in Dublin city, should be taken out of the land initiative funding model and directly funded as part of the capital programme 2019. Publicly funding them would give the Minister much greater control of the tenure mixture and the ratio of affordable and social, or affordable sale, if that is included, would be based on local need, not on what the market can bear. The Minister would have much greater control of the development, particularly the timeline for its delivery. Affordable rent and purchase could be controlled and guaranteed at rates that are genuinely affordable for families with modest incomes. Sinn Féin is strongly of the view that if there are affordable sale options in either of these developments those units can never be sold into the private market and only ever sold back into the affordable scheme.

Shanganagh is a unique proposal. It has unanimous support from the elected members of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council as well as the local community. It is well designed and considered and is ready to go. It has applied for stage 1 approval and I would welcome the Minister of State's confirmation of that. It could be up and running by the end of this year, following approval from the Department.

St. Michael's Estate has, unfortunately, despite the enormous campaigning by the local community experienced several failed public private partnership, PPP, regeneration projects. Rather than force it to go through the process again there is a strong argument for leaving it out, as well as concerns about gentrification, given its location. We have made this point privately to the Minister for State and now we are making it publicly. Both of these sites provide unique opportunities for direct public funding for social and affordable, including cost-rental housing and we urge the Minister of State to consider including them in the capital budget 2019.

I support what my colleagues have said. The average rent in Dublin is over €1,500 per month, up 56% on 2012. Rents are out of most people's reach as are mortgages on homes. We must use public land better. Public investment in public land is a real part of the solution to our housing problem. Between Shanganah and St. Michael's in Inchicore over 800 units could be delivered. That is more social housing than the Department delivered in all of last year. These are two very significant sites. I know the Minister of State wants to get moving but it is taking far too long. I urge the Minister of State to see where Government stands.

My colleagues have spoken about the mix of housing, rental and affordable. There is no affordable housing scheme. The Oscar Traynor Road, Irish Glass Bottle and O'Devaney Gardens sites are held up because Government has not proceeded with an affordable housing scheme. These are two particular estates that could be worked on quickly. I had the pleasure of meeting the community in St. Michael's Estate, Inchicore with Senator Ardagh. It has been badly let down through the PPP model. There is a strong desire there for new homes for new families which it is fantastic to see when in many other instances people object to new homes for new families. Even Ministers in this Government have done that recently. I ask the Minister of State to strongly consider what has been put forward today across parties, to publicly fund these two schemes, get them up and running, off the ground and deliver homes for new communities.

I have been campaigning for social and affordable housing on the Shanganah site since it was closed down as a prison and transferred to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, before I was even elected to the Dáil in 2011. It is a matter of immense frustration to me, to the people on the housing list and the people in the area that a publicly owned site is sitting there, which is ideal for housing and could help alleviate a dire housing crisis. People are waiting 15 years and up to 19 years on the housing list.

It is being held up by the Government's obsession with involving the private sector. This is messing everything up. It is tied up with questions of how to make money out of the site and to what extent the private sector is needed and it is just not working. I do not believe in it in the first place and it means nothing is happening.

Now finally there is a consensus across all parties in Dún Laoghaire that this site should be 100% social and affordable. There is some debate about the balance between those two but we can work that out among ourselves. The key issue is that there has to be direct public funding of it. If we have to depend on the private sector it will take forever. We just need to build the houses. The current scheme, in so far as it has been appraised, and which has been proposed and agreed on an all-party basis cannot work or deliver the affordable housing unless we get subsidies from the Government. It brings into question the wider failure of the Government to come up with an affordable housing scheme. For all the talk about one, it has not come up with a mechanism to fund and deliver it.

The biggest hoarder of land in this country is the State. It is hoarding thousands of acres. In St. Michael's Estate in Inchicore this is very obvious as soon as one walks into the square. Where the flats used to be there is a big unsafe space of approximately 12 acres. It is about time we used it because in Dublin South Central there are over 7,000 people on the housing list and in Inchicore approximately 2,000. Those are amazing figures. I recall being a councillor at a time when there were 7,000 people on the housing list for the whole of Dublin city. These figures are startling. Despite the Minister's attempt to disguise the housing figures by saying those who are illegal should not also be registered as homeless, one can be both. Despite his attempt in different ways to disguise the homeless list, it is growing. There were 10,000 on it in April and some 3,755 of them were children. We have a serious problem and the State needs to end the hoarding of land and to use initiatives such as the residents of St. Michael's Estate are proposing to have a cost-rental model that will allow immediate building instead of hoarding the land in the interests of the developers so that the price goes up and the deal can suit private development rather than land for public use. This is public land and the only thing that should go on it is public housing.

We will have to consider a model that will deliver that. I do not know if the Minister of State has read the St. Michael's Estate document but I encourage him to read it. Tremendous work has been done in the community on fair-rent homes. The proposal is to allow people who have jobs and are not eligible to be on the social housing waiting list because they earn too much to be able to rent at an affordable price. The State will continue to own the homes. It is a very sensible model and I think there is cross-party support for it in Inchicore. Would the Minister of State please read it?

I thank the Deputies for raising the very important issue of the State land bank and the role it is playing and can play in delivering affordable, social and private housing of all types and sizes, on which we are all in agreement. The issue revolves around who will pay for the private part of a development and who will sell the relevant houses.

It is wrong for people to continually say the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, is disguising the homeless figures because that is not the case. He is very honest in that regard, as am I and the departmental officials who are dealing with them. Nobody is trying to disguise them, but if we believe a person is not homeless, we will say so. A person who is living in a house is not counted as being homeless. Others might believe he or she should be counted as such, but we do not. We have engaged with the local authorities to identify who needs intervention from the State and who does not. We must formulate policies to help those most in need. We are doing all we can to ensure the figures are correct. Whether the correct figure is 9,500, 9,800 or 10,000, it is far too many. That is the reason we are here week after week debating the issue. I, therefore, ask Members to stop saying the Minister is disguising the figures because he is not. That is not what he is about. He is trying to find solutions.

The Minister is sensitive.

Increasing and accelerating housing delivery, particularly social and affordable housing, are at the heart of the Government's action plan for housing and homelessness, Rebuilding Ireland, which I accept and acknowledge is everyone's motivation. The two sites referred to are key housing authority assets that must be mobilised for the sustainable development of Dublin as a whole. They are key sites that can be used to deliver a lot of houses. I have visited both sites and recognise their importance in the delivery of housing.

While the development of residential land in housing authority ownership is, in the first Instance, a matter for the local authority concerned, including its elected members, we need to see new social and affordable homes realised from State housing land without delay, with particular emphasis on prioritising sites, including those mentioned, with the greatest potential to deliver housing at scale in the short to medium term. Both sites fit into that category. The issue is how we can develop them as quickly as possible. Like others, I am frustrated by the lengthy delays in developing some of the sites. We need to find ways to develop them a lot quicker.

St. Michael's Estate is one of three significant sites being developed by Dublin City Council under its housing land initiative, the aim of which is to ensure the delivery of mixed tenure homes in the Dublin City Council functional area. It envisages the potential to yield a minimum of 420 mixed tenure homes and the elected members of the council have determined that they will be provided on a 30% social, 20% affordable and 50% private tenure mix basis. I understand a general discussion in that regard is under way. Most people acknowledge the need to provide affordable, social and private housing. I think I am correct in saying most Members present want to see some private housing on the sites mentioned, but the issue is who should build them. Given the strategic importance of St. Michael's estate, my Department is working very closely with the city council on its optimum development. I am conscious of the motion recently received from the city council which is being reviewed and discussed. I was asked by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin to meet the residents on the site, which I did. The Minister was also asked to visit the site and did so earlier today when he met local residents. I have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the matter with him. It is a great site which is located beside the Luas and in the heart of the city. We are all determined to deliver a top class housing project on it.

Shanganagh Castle is another great site which is also located near amenities and public transport services. It is very positive that the members of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have come together on a cross-party basis with a view to achieving the optimal outcome on the site which can deliver over 500 new homes on a mixed tenure basis. I acknowledge that Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett has been campaigning on the issue for many years. My Department has met council officials on a number of occasions, including on site, to discuss the optimum development approach. Woodbrook-Shanganagh is a designated major urban housing delivery site and in recognition of this my Department is keen to support its development and has committed funding of just over €4 million from the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, to build public infrastructure which will open up the site for earlier development.

On the delivery of affordable homes on the two sites, it is ultimately a matter for the elected members of the councils to decide whether the homes should be affordable for purchase or cost rental. I firmly believe there is a need to ensure the rental sector, particularly in cities and major urban areas, is accessible and affordable. We are all agreed that the sector is not where it needs to be. To this end, we need to invest in a different rental offering, a so-called cost rental

sector which operates between the social and private market sectors. We are learning from pilot projects and the examination of similar models elsewhere. We are working with the European Investment Bank and other key stakeholders with a view to announcing shortly the first major cost rental project in Dublin city, with a broader programme of cost rental projects across Dublin and other cities to follow. The key issue is how we can stretch available resources to maximise these public developments. That is what we are trying to do.

It needs to happen urgently. On the land initiative, as proposed, I believe it is the public private partnership, PPP, model dressed up. The State needs to get a handle on housing proposals. The proposals put forward by Sinn Féin and others, including my colleague, Councillor Shane O'Brien, in dealing with the Shanganagh Castle site, bypass the private developer-led models in favour of a method of delivering social and affordable purchase and rental homes on these two key sites. I will go further and argue that such development should take place on all sites, but these are two sites which, if developed, would show the Government and private developers that the State was willing to intervene when necessary to deliver homes to those who deserved them. This model needs to be pursued urgently.

It is not for the Dáil to get into the details of either scheme. Rather, this is a matter for the communities concerned and their local elected representatives and the councils. They are unique sites on which there is strong local community involvement. There is strong political consensus in both areas for the proposals we are putting forward.

The Minister of State's reply is disappointing in that it does not tell us anything different from what he has been saying up to now on this matter. I ask him to respond to the following specific questions. Will he consider taking the two projects out of the land initiative model? Will he consider funding directly the two projects, either through Exchequer funding by way of the capital programme or by approving local authority access to Housing Finance Agency loans to proceed? Has Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council applied for stage 1 approval for such a project in Shanganagh Castle and will the Minister of State actively consider the request of all of the elected representatives in these two areas at local authority level to fund the projects publicly to ensure the best quality social, economic, residential and community dividend?

In his reply the Minister of State referenced the fact that these are great sites, but nothing is being delivered. They present a real opportunity for the delivery of significant housing in Inchicore and Shanganagh. Like Deputy Eoin Ó Broin, I want to know if the Minister of State will consider direct funding. They projects require direct funding to get them off the ground. The Dáil cannot, nor should it, micro manage every social and affordable housing site, but as a flagship project response to the housing crisis, these can be two very significant sites. I have discussed the matter at length with my colleagues, Senator Catherine Ardagh and Councillor Cormac Devlin. There is cross-party support in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown for this to happen.

On investment by the credit union movement, which was approved on 1 February, there has been no move on the part of the Department in the utilisation of credit union funding. Credit Union funding could also be looked at for the projects. I would like to know if the Minister of State will consider directly funding the projects from the Exchequer and perhaps partnering with the credit unions.

As I said, the Shanganagh Castle site could deliver 540 social and affordable homes. I have been campaigning on the issue for six or seven years, but nothing is happening. Two of my colleagues, Councillors Lisa Halpin and Hugh Lewis, put forward the first motion calling for social and affordable housing on the site. There is cross-party support on the issue. The question now is whether the Department will fund it or allow the local authority to access the finance to do so. I have made a proposal in that regard. We need departmental officials who can make decisions to sit down with Deputies, council officials and cross-party representative of the political parties to identify the blockages. That is all we need to do. Instead of continuous engagement backwards and forwards on who is to be blame, blockages and so on such that the issue is lost in communication and nothing happens, we need people who can make decisions. Will the Minister of State agree to a meeting of all of the major stakeholders to iron out what needs to be done to deliver housing?

The Minister of State said the elected members of Dublin City Council had determined that the homes in St. Michael's Estate would be provided on a 30% social, 20 affordable and 50% private tenure mix basis. The residents of St. Michael's estate and the community association in the area are actively campaigning against this proposal in favour of a cost rental model. The Minister of State also said he was working with the European Investment Bank and other key stakeholders with a view to announcing the first major cost rental project in Dublin. Will he tell the House the location of the project and spell out how it would work?

If it is not St. Michael's Estate, why would the Minister of State not choose St. Michael's Estate?

The Minister of State, Deputy English said that we are all in favour of private housing so people can buy housing. I agree absolutely, but on public land it should be public housing. We obsess all the time about social mix in areas such as Inchicore but one would never hear an obsession with social mix in areas such as Foxrock or Castleknock because where there is a lot of wealth they are not worried about social mix. I do not believe we should obsess about social mix in the way that we do in areas like Inchicore. The cost rental model will deal with the fact that it could provide for people who are working and earning.

I want to clarify that Deputy Bríd Smith is not the only voice in Inchicore looking for housing projects, and not everyone would agree with the Deputy in this regard. We strongly believe that the best use of publicly owned land is a combination of public housing through social, affordable and private accommodation use. Most people here would agree that the concept is right but the big question mark is around how we fund it. Deputy Smith wants only social housing. I do not believe that is best planning. I agree with the Deputy that areas with not enough social housing should be corrected also, but it is about getting the balance right. The days are gone, however, when social housing was put into just one area and private housing was put in another area. This is not what the Department is trying to achieve.

I call for public housing.

The Deputy keeps saying public housing-----

Housing that could be rented out to people who are working.

The Minister of State, please, without interruption.

I understand that, but the best use of State-owned lands is accommodation for all. The question that we are asked most is whether we are open to different models of funding. With every site the State owns we have asked the local authority to bring in all the different concepts for that land. They have all brought in their plans for delivery of social, affordable and private accommodation. We look at every option available to deliver those sites. I did not meet the residents this morning. The Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy has met them. We will look at every option for how we can best deliver housing as quickly as possible and how we can stretch taxpayers' money as much as we can from a capital perspective.

These sites should have houses on them. I see Deputy Bríd Smith nodding and shaking her head. I agree that there should be houses on these sites and we have to find a way to move this on. It has been stuck in the system but this is what we are trying to do. We have changed the system to allow the sites to move forward a lot quicker. A lot of effort has gone into working with local authorities. There is engagement. Under the direction of the Minister, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the housing delivery team and I have engaged directly with local authority officials and councillors, site by site, to see how we can make these decisions, remove barriers and move on. We can do this on those sites also. There has been enragement there, the Minister has been out there again, and-----

Will the Ministers please just do it and involve us?

It is the officials and the councillors who will make the decisions. Some of the councillors are from the Deputies' own background and are part of that conversation also. We will look at every option to get these houses delivered.

With regard to credit unions providing funds, the changes were made to allow this. I met the credit unions recently. We want them to be involved in housing projects. We have explained to them how they can do this. It is about being able to fund projects off balance sheet. The credit unions are finding ways to partner up and they are engaging with some of the approved housing bodies. They are interested and the credit union money is there. It is not the €8 billion that people say credit unions have, but they do have a lot of funds available. We are very interested in having them on board, along with other bodies that want to fund houses, and we have made this very clear to them. We will do this site by site and will look at all suggestions.

Will the Minister of State answer my question on the first major cost rental model-----

There is no site picked yet-----

There is no site picked yet.