Social Welfare Code

Ceisteanna (650)

John Brady

Ceist:

650. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to amend the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 in order to include home-schooled children alongside the list of recognised institutions of education to ensure that parents that rely on social protection supports are not denied a qualified child increase based on the way which they choose to educate their children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25586/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

An Increase for a Qualified Child (IQC) is payable in respect of qualified children until age 18, or up to 22 if in full-time education, on all schemes where IQCs apply.

An IQC is payable where the child is in full-time education and the customer is in receipt of:

- a long-term DEASP payment,

or

- a short-term payment i.e. Jobseekers Benefit, Jobseekers Allowance, Illness Benefit, Occupational Injury Benefit or Health and Safety Benefit for 156 days or has an accumulation of at least 156 days of relevant DEASP payments

Where a student reaches 18 during the academic year, and the customer is in receipt of a short-term payment but does not satisfy the 156 days requirement, the IQC will continue to be paid in respect of that child up to the 30th June following the birthday or until s/he completes the full-time day course, whichever is the earlier.

Where a student reaches age 22 during an academic year, payment of the IQC is continued for the duration of that academic year, provided s/he remains in full-time education until then.

Section 2(3) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, (as amended) defines the term "qualified child".

A qualified child must:

- Be ordinarily resident in the State

- Not be detained in a children detention school

- Satisfy the condition as to age.

There is no full-time education conditionality.

Under sections 10 and 14 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 once an 18 year old is registered by the National Educational Welfare Board an IQC is payable. A child does not need to be attending at one of the listed recognised institutions of education but must satisfy the Board under Section 14 (2) of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 that the child is registered with the National Education Welfare Board.

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Ceisteanna (651)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

651. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the average waiting time for social welfare appeals to be heard by the social welfare appeals office; if the average waiting time is calculated from the date on which the appeal by the appellant is received by the office or the date on which the appeal is formally registered by the office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25604/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

All claim decisions taken by the Department’s Deciding Officers and Designated Persons are appealable to the Chief Appeals Officer. In any year about 85% of all claims are awarded by the Department and just 1% are appealed. Nevertheless, the Department is concerned that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Accordingly, significant efforts and resources have been devoted to reforming the appeal process in recent years. As a result, appeal processing times in respect of all schemes improved between 2011 and 2017 from 52.5 weeks for an oral hearing in 2011 to 26.4 weeks in 2017 and from 25.1 weeks for a summary decision in 2011 to 19.8 weeks in 2017. The corresponding processing times for the year 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24.8 weeks for a summary decision. There has been some improvement to date in 2019 with an oral hearing decision taking on average 28.2 weeks and a summary decision taking 23.3 weeks.

The average waiting time is calculated from the date the appeal is registered. The time taken to process an appeal reflects a number of factors including that the appeals process is a quasi-judicial process with appeals officers being required to decide all appeals on a ‘de-novo’ basis. In addition, appeals decisions are themselves subject to review by the High Court and decisions have to be formally written up to quasi-judicial standards. Other factors that influence appeals processing times include the quality of the initial decision – in this respect the Department has changed the decisions process in respect of medical schemes, in order to provide more information to the claimant. I expect that this will help to reduce the number of appeals over time.

In addition, a number of new Appeals Officers have joined the Appeals Office over the past 12-18 months, to replace staff leaving on retirement. Given the complexity of the appeals process it takes some time for new staff to be trained up and develop expertise and this has led to somewhat longer processing times during this period. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that appeal processing times continue to be a priority for her Office.

Finally, where a claimant has been refused a social welfare payment, regardless of the scheme involved, and is appealing that decision, if their means are insufficient to meet their needs it is open to them to apply for supplementary welfare allowance in the interim.

If their application for supplementary welfare allowance is refused, they can also appeal that decision. The supplementary welfare allowance appeal will be prioritised for attention within the Appeals Office as soon as the appeal file and submission is received from my Department.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Disability Allowance Applications

Ceisteanna (652)

Michael Fitzmaurice

Ceist:

652. Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when a person (details supplied) will receive a decision on the review of a disability allowance application in which a review was requested and no decision has been made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25612/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Employment)

Following the submission of further medical evidence by the person concerned, their case has been reviewed and they have been awarded disability allowance with effect from 17 October 2018. The first payment will be made on 3 July 2019.

Arrears of payment due will issue as soon as possible once any necessary adjustment is calculated and applied in respect of any overlapping payments.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Planning Investigations

Ceisteanna (653)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

653. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if the report into alleged planning irregularities in County Donegal will be published; and the action he plans to take arising from the contents of the report. [24851/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

The Review Into Certain Planning Matters In Respect Of Donegal County Council, by Mr. Rory Mulcahy S.C., was received by my Department in June, 2017.

Following initial analysis and assessment of the report’s findings and recommendations, including interaction with the Department’s own legal advisers and the Attorney General’s Office, a comprehensive set of queries and a request for advice in relation to certain matters, including potential dissemination or publication of the report, was submitted to the Attorney General's Office.

Following the receipt of the Attorney's advice, officials in my Department have considered the matter further and prepared a submission for my consideration in respect of, inter alia, the issue of publication or dissemination of the report.

I am considering the report and the extensive legal advices received. Once I have concluded my deliberations, I will be in a position to consider what actions, if necessary, need to be taken and to make a further statement on the matter.

Electoral Reform

Ceisteanna (654, 658, 659)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

654. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will initiate a report on the issue of spoilt ballots in view of the high level of spoilt votes in the 2019 local and European elections; and if so, if it will include a survey of all spoils (details supplied). [24852/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

658. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if he will consider putting plans in place to ensure that no other referendum is held on the same date as local elections in the future in view of the confusion and significant level of spoilt votes in the 2019 elections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25038/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

659. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the steps that will be taken to address the significant number of blank and spoilt ballot papers in the local and European elections 2019; if he will consider introducing an information programme to explain the format to the voting public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25039/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 654, 658 and 659 together.

Electoral law provides that a ballot paper at an election is invalid for a number of reasons: if it does not bear the official mark; does not clearly indicate a first preference for some candidate; indicates a first preference for more than one candidate; or has anything written or marked on it, which in the opinion of the returning officer is calculated to identify the elector.

My Department is currently compiling the results for the recently held European and local elections and referendum. The information is being compiled based on returns from local returning officers and will be published in due course on my Department's website and will include information on the reason given for invalid ballot papers.

My Department recently completed a public consultation on a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that was prepared in relation to the establishment of an electoral commission. The proposed functions of the commission as set out in the RIA include conducting research and developing programmes and implementing ways to enhance voter education and engagement. Such research and programmes could assist in analysing in more detail the reasons for invalid ballot papers and in helping the public to have a better understanding of the voting system.

The submissions received in the course of the consultation are being considered in my Department and the content used to inform a preferred option for establishing a commission, which will be brought to Government for consideration. Once a preferred option is agreed, work would then commence on the preparation of the necessary legislation to establish an electoral commission.

On the matter of holding a number of polls on the same day, arrangements for the holding of polls are set out in electoral law. I am required under electoral law to appoint the day upon which the poll at an election or a referendum shall take place. The law allows for the taking of the poll on any day of the week and does not preclude a number of polls being taken together. This flexibility allows all relevant factors to be taken into account at any given time in setting the polling day. While I have no proposals to change the current arrangements, they are kept under review in my Department.

Planning Guidelines

Ceisteanna (655)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

655. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if a review of the co-living planning regulations will be conducted in view of the likely unintended consequences of such developments. [24880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In March 2018, I published updated Sustainable Urban Housing: Design Standards for New Apartments Guidelines for Planning Authorities under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended), to respond to the changing housing needs in light of demographics and the dynamics in the urban employment market. An extensive public consultation process took place prior to finalisation of the guidelines, during which 63 submissions were made to my Department, all of which are available on my Department’s website. My Department also hosted a consultative workshop prior to finalising the guidelines.

The updated guidelines set out policy in relation to a range of apartment types needed to meet the accommodation needs of a variety of household types and sizes. This includes the introduction of the ‘Shared Accommodation’ or ‘Co-Living’ format. This format comprises professionally managed rental accommodation, where individual rooms are rented within an overall development that includes access to shared or communal facilities and amenities. Such developments are only appropriate where responding to an identified urban housing need at particular locations; they are not envisaged as an alternative or replacement to the more conventional apartment developments which are provided for elsewhere in the guidelines. To date, the number of planning applications submitted for this type of development appears to have been extremely low, relative to the total number of planning applications for residential development overall.

In view of the relatively recent issuing of the guidelines, the extensive public consultation that took place prior to their finalisation, and the need to see out the practical implementation of the guidelines, particularly with regard to shared accommodation. I am satisfied that the guidelines as issued are robust and I do not propose to review the guidelines at this time.

However, given the relatively new nature of this form of accommodation, my Department will monitor the emerging shared accommodation sector and may issue further additional technical updates to this document as appropriate.

Animal Welfare

Ceisteanna (656)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

656. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the name of each local authority nationally that directly employs an animal welfare officer in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24881/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under section 159 of the Local Government Act 2001, each Chief Executive is responsible for the staffing and organisational arrangements necessary for carrying out the functions of the local authority for which he or she is responsible.

My Department oversees workforce planning for the local government sector, including the monitoring of local government sector employment levels. To this end, my Department gathers aggregate quarterly data on staff numbers in each local authority. However, granular data, in terms of the specific role and function of each individual staff member, is not collected and consequently is not available in my Department.

This information should be available directly from local authorities themselves.

Local Authority Housing Funding

Questions Nos. 658 and 659 answered with Question No. 654.

Ceisteanna (657)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

657. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount available under the buy and renew scheme; the amount available to each county council; if there is a cap; the amount Kerry County Council drew down under this scheme in each of the past 5 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24886/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Under my Department’s Social Housing Investment Programme, funding is available to all local authorities to deliver additional social housing stock through construction and the acquisition of new and previously owned houses/apartments for social housing use. This includes delivery through the Buy and Renew Scheme and activity in this regard is largely delegated to local authorities so they can respond flexibly to all opportunities to provide new social housing and, as such, there is no funding limit for each local authority, once they are contributing to the delivery of their Rebuilding Ireland targets.

Since the Buy & Renew Scheme was introduced in 2017, Kerry County Council has delivered over 30 properties, with funding of c €5.3 million approved by my Department.

Questions Nos. 658 and 659 answered with Question No. 654.

Planning Issues

Ceisteanna (660)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

660. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of attendees for a public event which would require planning permission; and the regulations in place for events of a smaller size to ensure such events are managed in a safe and secure way. [25098/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

Section 230 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides that a licence is required in respect of the holding of a prescribed event or class of event. Part 16 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 provides for the licensing of outdoor events. Article 183 of the Regulations provides that a prescribed event for the purposes of Section 230 is an event at which the audience comprises 5,000 or more people. Section 234 of the 2000 Act places a general duty on all those connected with an event, whether organising or attending the event, to take all reasonable steps to avoid exposing any other person to a risk of danger.

Organisers of events which do not require an outdoor event licence are well advised that they should be held in close co-operation with the local authority, An Garda Síochána and the emergency services and comply with the relevant codes of practice, in particular the Code of Practice for Safety at Outdoor Pop Concerts and Other Outdoor Musical Events (1996). The Planning and Development Act 2000 focuses primarily on the planning or licensing aspects of outdoor events. An Garda Síochána have responsibility for public order and crowd events, while responsibility for fire safety rests with fire authorities. My Department is currently undertaking a review of safety at funfairs, which is likely to include a broader examination of public safety at outdoor events. I expect this review to be finalised and reported on later this year.

Housing Adaptation Grant Data

Ceisteanna (661)

Willie O'Dea

Ceist:

661. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the expenditure to date on the housing adaptation grant; the estimated full year cost of increasing expenditure by 10% and 20%, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25140/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

In 2019, a total of €71.25 million is available for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability Scheme, in respect of private houses. This is made up of €57 million Exchequer funding, which is an increase of some 8% on the 2018 figure, with the balance of €14.25m being contributed by the local authorities. A total of €13.83 million has been spent to date. The suite of grants include the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant and the Housing Aid for Older People.

Increasing funding by 10% would cost an additional €5.7 million to the Exchequer, with a further €1.425 million to be contributed by the local authorities, while an increase of 20% would cost an additional €11.4 million to the Exchequer, with a further €2.85 million to be contributed by the local authorities.

Further consideration will be given to increasing funding over the coming years in the context of the range of housing supports and provision being made under Rebuilding Ireland and also considering the commitments under the Government's Housing Options for Our Ageing Population - Policy Statement (Actions 4.1/4.2), which is available on my Department's website at the following link:

https://www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/housingoptionsforanageingpopulationeng_web.pdf.

Tenant Purchase Scheme

Ceisteanna (662)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

662. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government his plans to put in place a monetary package scheme for local authority and social housing tenants who wish to own their own dwelling; if this scheme could apply to applicants in circumstances in which local authorities within the provisions of regulations exclude certain houses which in the opinion of the local authority should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management; and his plans to ensure that this monetary package scheme, that is, funding in lieu of the number of years tenancy in a local authority house, will also be made available to Part V homes which are also excluded from the tenant (incremental) purchase scheme 2016. [25151/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

A local authority tenant who wishes to purchase their dwelling can apply to do so through the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme, which came into operation on 1 January 2016. The Scheme is open to eligible tenants, including joint tenants, of local authority houses that are available for sale under the Scheme. To be eligible, tenants must meet certain criteria, including having a minimum reckonable income of €15,000 per annum and having been in receipt of social housing support for at least one year.

The provisions of Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, are designed to enable the development of mixed tenure sustainable communities. Part V homes are excluded from the Tenant (Incremental) Purchase Scheme 2016 to ensure that homes delivered under this mechanism will remain available for people in need of social housing support and that the original policy goals of the legislation are not eroded over time. The continued development of mixed tenure communities remains very important in promoting social integration.

Local authorities may also, within the provisions of the Regulations, exclude certain houses which, in the opinion of the authority, should not be sold for reasons such as proper stock or estate management. It is a matter for each individual local authority to administer the Scheme in its operational area in line with the over-arching provisions of the governing legislation for the scheme, and in a manner appropriate to its housing requirements.

In line with the commitment given in the Government's Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness, a review of the operation of the first 12 months of the Tenant Purchase (Incremental) Scheme has been completed and a full report has been prepared setting out findings and recommendations.

Following consideration of a number of implementation issues arising, I expect to be in a position to publish the Review very shortly. I intend to bring a comprehensive package of social housing reform measures to Government and the relevant recommendations made in the Review of the Tenant Purchase Scheme will be progressed as part of that process.

Local Authority Housing Maintenance

Ceisteanna (663)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

663. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the status of the work of the group within the structure of an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25293/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

My Department engages with the organisation referred to in relation to a range of issues of common interest to the Department and the local government sector. While the internal operations of the organisation, including internal groups and sub-committees, are a matter for the organisation itself, I understand that the work of the sub-group referred to is progressing well. My Department is engaging with the sub-group in relation to the development of a sustainable funding approach to housing stock maintenance and repairs and this will continue according as the sub-group’s work evolves further.

Homeless Accommodation Provision

Ceisteanna (664, 665)

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

664. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of homeless hubs in operation in the Dublin City Council area; the location of each hub; the capacity of each hub; and the number of individual units in each hub in tabular form. [25342/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Denise Mitchell

Ceist:

665. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of hotels, bed and breakfasts and similar forms of emergency accommodation excluding family hubs in the Dublin City Council area which are used to house homeless families; the location of each; and the number of homeless families housed in each in tabular form. [25343/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 664 and 665 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 emergency accommodation for homeless persons rests with individual housing authorities.

It is recognised that hotel accommodation is inappropriate for accommodating homeless families for anything other than a short period of time. Accordingly, the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness includes the objective that hotels will only be used in limited circumstances as emergency accommodation for families. To meet this objective housing authorities are pursuing the delivery of a range of additional and enhanced family-focused facilities, or family hubs, which offer a greater level of stability than is possible in hotels, while move-on options to long-term independent living are identified and secured.

There are now 14 family hubs operating in the Dublin City Council area that offer 446 units of family accommodation, as detailed in the following table. Further such facilities are being planned for delivery in 2019, details of which will become available as projects are finalised.

Location

Number of Family Units

Drumcondra, Dublin 3

34

Glasnevin, Dublin 11

14

Clontarf, Dublin 3

25

Rialto, Dublin 8

4

Gardiner St., Dublin 1

98

Clonliffe Road, Dublin 9

50

O’Connell St, Dublin 1

38

Clontarf, Dublin 3

11

Francis St., Dublin 8

30

Crumlin, Dublin 12

25

Ballyfermot, Dublin 10

12

Coolock, Dublin 17

28

Phibsboro, Dublin 7

37

Gardiner St, Dublin 1

40

My Department does not collate information regarding the number of hotels and bed and breakfasts that are used as emergency accommodation. Decisions on the range of emergency accommodation services required are a matter for individual housing authorities in consultation with the Management Group of the relevant regional joint Homelessness Consultative Forum.

Departmental Properties

Ceisteanna (666, 667)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

666. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the amount of land purchased and leased by size and amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and amount expended per year in cases in which land is leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25388/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

667. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the number of buildings and property purchased and leased and the amount expended in the past five years to date; the location of same; the term of the lease and the amount expended per year in cases in which properties are leased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 666 and 667 together.

In relation to the information sought, the only transaction of relevance was funding of €241,000 provided, by my Department, to the Office of Public Works to purchase property at Valentia Island in 2016, in relation to the operations of Met Eireann; ownership of this property is vested in the Commissioner of Public Works.

The information requested in relation to bodies under the aegis of my Department is a matter for the individual bodies concerned. Arrangements have been put in place by each Agency to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas. The contact email address for each agency is set out in the following table.

Agency

Email address

An Bord Pleanála

Oireachtasqueries@pleanala.ie

Ervia, Gas Networks Ireland

oireachtas@ervia.ie

Housing Finance Agency

oireachtas.enquiries@hfa.ie

Housing Sustainable Communities Agency

publicreps@housingagency.ie

Irish Water

oireachtasmembers@water.ie

Local Government Management Agency

corporate@lgma.ie.

Ordinance Survey Ireland

Oireachtas@osi.ie

Property Registration Authority

reps@prai.ie

Pyrite Resolution Board

oireachtasinfo@pyriteboard.ie

Residential Tenancies Board

OireachtasMembersQueries@rtb.ie

Valuation Office

reps@valoff.ie

Land Development Agency

oireachtas@lda.ie

Office of the Planning Regulator

oireachtas@opr.ie

Local Authority Housing Eligibility

Ceisteanna (668, 669)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

668. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government when it became policy for carer’s allowance to be considered part of the income of a person when calculating rent for a local authority property; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25411/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

669. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that carer’s allowance is being considered a part of the income of a person when calculating rent for a local authority property in County Limerick; his views on whether it is acceptable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25412/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Housing)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 668 and 669 together.

The right of local authorities to set and collect rents on their dwellings is laid down in section 58 of the Housing Act 1966. The making or amending of a rent scheme is an executive function and is subject to broad principles set out by my Department including that –

- the rent payable should be related to income and a smaller proportion of income should be required from low income households;

- provision should be included for the acceptance of a lower rent than that required under the terms of the scheme in exceptional cases where payment of the normal rent would give rise to hardship;

- appropriate local factors should be taken into account including the costs of the maintenance and management of the stock of rented dwellings and the adequacy of the rental income to meet such costs.

Since 1986 when rent setting was devolved to individual local authorities, different approaches have been taken to rent charging and setting across the country. There are currently 36 differential rents schemes in operation nationwide. While local authorities generally follow the Household Means Policy (which applies for assessment of eligibility for social housing) there is variation in the extent to which they apply the income disregards set out in that policy in their Differential Rent Schemes and differing approaches are taken to, for example, Working Family Payment and Carers Allowance.

Considerable work has been carried out by my Department in developing a draft national differential rents framework for the purposes of section 31 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. Such a framework has as its main aim the harmonisation of local authority rents, including a set of standardised income disregards, whilst retaining the general principle of rents related to household income.

This work is now being examined further in the light of the broader commitment given in the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness, to review the disparate systems of differential rent for social housing in place across local authorities. The overall objective is to ensure that housing supports are fair and sustainable and prioritise those on lowest incomes. I expect that the review will be completed in the near future.