I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 69 and 73 together.
My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation and related services rests with individual housing authorities, with the criteria for assessing homelessness set out in section 2 of the Housing Act 1988.
My Department publishes a monthly report, which sets out in the number of individuals accessing emergency accommodation during the last full week of each month. There have been no changes to this process. However, during the course of the compilation of the March and April reports, my Department identified that some individuals who had been reported as being in emergency accommodation were in houses and apartments, and a number of local authorities amended their figures to reflect this, following consultation with my Department.
The long-term housing needs of families and individuals who are in emergency accommodation will be met through a range of social housing supports such as the Housing Assistance Payment scheme and through general social housing allocations. Significant progress is being made and in 2017, 4,729 individuals exited emergency accommodation into independent tenancies, a 54% increase on the 3,079 recorded in the previous year.
My main priority and focus over the coming weeks and months, will continue to be to tackle and reduce the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.