The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, in informing the House of changes in the SWA rent supplement scheme, has stated that there will be provision for exceptions in respect of the homeless, people who are at risk of becoming homeless and other vulnerable people. She has given a specific assurance that people who have particular problems and difficulties will be cared for and that nobody will be made homeless because of this measure. I understand that safeguards and exemptions in this regard have been incorporated in regulations made by the Minister and in guidelines issued by her Department to the health boards. My Department has advised housing authorities about the changes. Accordingly, the question of additional provision in this context does not arise.
Lone parents and persons of low income who are unable to provide housing for themselves from their own resources are entitled to apply for social housing which is provided by a local authority or a voluntary housing body. The Government's positive commitment to the social housing programme is shown in the increased provision for social and affordable housing in 2004. The total Exchequer and non-Exchequer housing provision of €1.885 billion in 2004 represents an increase of 5.5% on the 2003 provision. The increase in the housing provision will allow for 5,000 starts under the main local authority programme, an increase of 500 above 2003 levels and a further 500 commencements under area regeneration programmes in 2004. The voluntary housing sector will provide some 1,800 units of accommodation in 2004. Many of the housing units being provided by local authorities and voluntary bodies in 2004 will be let to lone parents and persons on low incomes.