Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Housing (Housing Assistance Payment Waiting Times) (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Bill 2021: First Stage
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 and subsequent regulations to reduce social housing and housing assistance payment scheme assessment times.
This Bill proposes to amend section 20(4) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 by setting a new three-week timeframe for processing social housing assessments. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me this opportunity. It is my first Bill. It is a simple and straightforward one that tackles an important issue. It is a technical Bill which would help address paperwork issued in housing applications that many of my constituents have complained about for a number of years. I am sure all Members are aware of these kind of issues in their own constituencies. The purpose of this Bill is to set out new statutory deadlines for processing housing assistance payment and social housing assessment applications. It would halve the current social housing assessment times and set a three-week deadline for housing assistance payment processing times.
There is currently no such timeframe and the waiting period varies from one local authority to another. I have found out in the past few months that there is a huge difference between local authorities. The aim of my Bill is to give applicants certainty to ensure all applicants are dealt with quickly and effectively. I know the staff in local authorities are doing their best and my Bill would assist them to ensure those people seeking their assistance payments are only waiting on a three-week turnaround, which would alleviate the calls the staff receive. People are ringing for applications and looking for correspondence. I also believe it will work and help the local authority staff. That is another huge issue.
My Bill is in line with the Housing for All strategy. This Government has a vision of a vibrant, inclusive and thriving Ireland in which no one is left behind. This Bill aims to ensure we do just that. It serves to give those in need of housing the ability to know if they can qualify for housing supports in a timely manner, rather than leaving them waiting to know if they qualify for the housing list. That was another issue and why this Bill is so important; it is even worse if they are waiting for weeks, without knowing. We need to get this on a statutory footing.
In my local authority, it can take up to ten or 12 weeks for a decision and that leads to delays for those getting their housing assistance payment, HAP. If you are not on the housing list, you do not qualify for the HAP, which is a housing payment for people on that list. It can make the difference between families becoming homeless and helping them to qualify, if they meet the criteria or caps - which differ in every local authority - to go on the local authority housing list. This is a small amendment but will totally change people's lives in terms of getting on the housing list quickly. I am looking for support from everyone. This is about all parties and it is important that all of us work together. I spoke to the Minister about it and am getting his support but I ask that all of us in this House support this measure. It is critical we give this support to the people who need it.