Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Rent Supplement Scheme
981. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of applications for rent supplement which have been assessed since post-Covid-19 changes were made to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10711/20]
982. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will provide updated operational guidelines for rent supplement provided to community welfare officers in which rental costs exceed 2016 limits; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10712/20]
983. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the communication and outreach undertaken by her Department to advise persons who are now eligible to apply for rent supplement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10713/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 981 to 983, inclusive, together.
Rent supplement continues to play a key role in supporting families and individuals in private rented accommodation, with the scheme currently supporting approximately 21,150 recipients.
The scheme provides short-term income support, to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source. The scheme ensures that for those who were renting, and due to temporary loss of employment, can continue to meet their rental commitments.
Since the introduction of the Government’s Covid emergency response approximately, 6,400 customers have been provided rent supplement support; in addition, there are currently, approximately, 1,500 pending applications awaiting a decision or in the process of providing the necessary documentation to the officer dealing with their claim. Statistics in relation to overall approval/refusal rates in relation to the Scheme are not currently available.
In the context of the Covid emergency, for persons to be eligible for Rent Supplement, once it has been confirmed that they are a bona fide tenant, the two standing qualification criteria apply:
- The customer was in receipt of Rent Supplement in the last 12 months before the date of application; or,
- The customer was living in private rented accommodation prior to the Covid emergency (at least 4 weeks), could afford their rent at the beginning of the tenancy and were now unable to continue to pay the rent because of a substantial change in their circumstances.
The principal underlying criteria for access to the Scheme have not changed: an applicant receiving a primary social welfare payment or reduced income with an identifiable rental commitment can apply. Rent supplement’s core customer message remains in line with previous policy, and is supported by the existing customer information available explaining the Scheme’s objectives and criteria. Where a tenant approaches the Department for support towards their rental commitments, the application will be considered by the officer dealing with their case.
The overarching Covid-19 response by rent supplement is to provide a flexible case-by-case driven solution for customers, providing temporary income support during the emergency for their housing costs. The scheme has not fundamentally changed, and I am satisfied that the appropriate information is available to both officers and the general public with respect to the scheme. The Department’s current flexible rent supplement response has been extended to end-August 2020 and remains under review within context of the overall Government response to the Covid-19 emergency.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.