Thursday, 10 September 2020
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputy O'Callaghan for making his point so well. Resolving homelessness is a priority of this Government and the programme for Government includes a range of commitments to support individuals and families experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, has established a high-level homelessness task force, including chief executives of a number of the largest homeless NGOs and the DRHE, which will feed into the implementation of the programme for Government.
Key to addressing homelessness is increasing the supply of housing and the programme for Government commits to increasing supply of public, social and affordable homes. In particular, we will increase the social housing stock by more than 50,000 units with an emphasis on new builds. However, as we address housing supply, there continues to be a significant number of households experiencing homelessness. The Government is committed to ensuring that these households are supported with emergency accommodation and receive the supports they need to identify and secure a home under the various social housing supports that are available.
Local authorities are responsible for the provision of accommodation and related services to individuals and families assessed as homeless. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, as it will become, is responsible for the provision of a national framework policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at a local level.
My Department also provides capital funding to local authorities and to approved housing bodies to support the delivery of emergency accommodation for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Family hubs have been developed by housing authorities, in conjunction with their NGO service delivery partners, to provide emergency accommodation that is appropriate for families. There are now 33 family hubs in operation providing over 700 units of accommodation for families experiencing homelessness.
All individuals and families experiencing homelessness are supported by local authorities and their NGO service delivery partners to exit homelessness to a home. A national quality standards framework for homeless services has been implemented to ensure a consistent approach in the way local authorities and service providers respond to the needs of those experiencing homelessness and to improve the quality of services provided to those who need to access emergency accommodation while they progress through homeless services into homes. The framework aims to ensure that the services provided are well-organised, co-ordinated, integrated and focused on moving people into homes as quickly as possible.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on homeless services, as it has across all areas of society. The HSE has issued specific guidance for homeless group settings, which includes details on Covid-19 prevention control measures. My Department is working with local authorities and the HSE to ensure that necessary arrangements are in place to protect individuals and families accessing emergency accommodation. Significant additional accommodation has been put in place to support the appropriate levels of social distancing in emergency accommodation and to provide self-isolation capacity for confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.