Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
Committee on Housing and Homelessness
I thank the witnesses for their presentations. Many of us on this committee represent constituencies that have very high levels of family homelessness and housing need. We have been working with many of the realities described by the witnesses and they confirm the picture of what we are experiencing in the constituencies.
The job of this committee is to report and try to present as focused recommendations as we can to the Dáil and to the new Minister for housing. The more focused we can make our recommendations, the more chance that at least some of them will get taken up. Having accepted the outline of the presentations there are a couple of areas on which I am keen to hear the witnesses views. Part of the responsibility for funding the refuges lies with Tusla, but the general housing policy and long-term policy rests with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Often there is a disconnect between the provision of services from entering the refuge, then into step-down and then into long-term housing. I am interested in the witnesses' reflections on whether that is a difficulty right across the system and whether they have any recommendations for how that could be addressed. Do we put all the responsibilities into the housing remit or do we put some of the housing responsibilities into Tusla? In their experience, what do the witnesses consider the best way to tackle that? In the interests of clarity I would like the witnesses to explain, on the record, a person's transition from the refuge to step-down to safe housing so that everybody who reads the presentation is clear about how that model works.
One of the difficulties seen in our constituency offices is when women with children who are experiencing domestic violence are private home owners. Their ability to access social housing supports of any kind is absolutely at the discretion of the local authorities. Some local authorities have a more sensitive approach while others have a very negative approach. Do the witnesses have any policy recommendations specifically on how that could be tackled? The same question applies for sharing tenants in local authority accommodation, the classic case of domestic violence within a shared tenancy. The local authority generally sees that as a domestic matter and will not get involved. The authority says it is a matter for the courts or for the gardaí. Do the witnesses have any recommendations regarding that?
I wish to pick up on a point made by Ms Ryan regarding the assessment of need. Obviously the centre of interest is one of the qualifying criteria. Perhaps Ms Ryan could clarify if it is SONAS's experience that local authorities are refusing to grant an assessment of need away from what would have been the person's centre of interest, even though there is supporting evidence from referring organisations that the centre of interest includes a violent partner? Does Ms Ryan have specific policy recommendations, for example in changes to how local authorities perform housing needs assessments, that could fix that problem?