I propose to take Questions Nos. 296, 332 and 333 together.
There have been a number of deaths, in recent months, of people who had been sleeping rough or accessing homeless services. Each of these deaths is a tragedy and I extend my sympathies to the families concerned.
The deaths of people availing of homeless services are a concern and in order to provide a better understanding on this matter, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE) and the HSE have jointly commissioned a detailed review of recent deaths in homeless services. It is important that we establish the facts concerning the circumstances involved, and that we base our response as policy makers and elected representatives on the best knowledge and evidence available.
While I welcome and support the commissioning of this review by the DRHE and the HSE, the Terms of Reference of the review were set by those agencies, having regard to their responsibilities in respect of the provision of accommodation, support and health services to homeless persons. I understand that the review is due to be completed by the end of February 2021. The findings of this review, along with any implications arising in respect of service provision, are to be considered by all the relevant authorities involved in providing services and supports to people experiencing homelessness.
Separate to this, research has been commissioned by the Department of Health who have asked the Health Research Board to undertake a one-year feasibility study to collect data on deaths among people who were homeless. The research will apply the methodology used to compile the National Drug Related Deaths Index, which is a census of drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users and those who are alcohol dependent in Ireland. For deaths in 2019, including deaths among people who were homeless, approximately 17,000 files from all Coroner districts are being reviewed.
I have been informed by the Department of Health, that provided there is not significant delay in inquests being held and that data collection can continue in accordance with Government guidelines in relation to COVID-19, the report should be completed in the last quarter of 2021.
Studies like these provide important insights and understanding to assist in guiding policy, and in targeting the necessary resources and putting in place appropriate policy and operational responses to tackle the complex health needs that many of those that use homeless services have.