Homeless Taskforce meets to discuss Housing First & enhanced health supports during COVID-19
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and the Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, met this morning with the High Level Homelessness Taskforce to discuss the implementation of the Housing First programme and the enhanced provision of health supports to those experiencing homelessness during Covid-19.
The High Level Homelessness Taskforce is made up of representatives from the Peter McVerry Trust, Dublin Simon Community, Focus Ireland, Threshold, DePaul, CrossCare and the Dublin Region Homelessness Executive and meet regularly by videoconference.
On top of the €218m housing budget for homeless services in 2021 additional funding of €11 million is being provided to meet the health needs of people who are homeless under the HSE Winter Plan. This funding will continue the protective public health measures for the medically vulnerable homeless population, expand GP services for people in emergency accommodation in Dublin and regional centres, and provide continuity of care for those requiring emergency hospital treatment during the winter months.
The Department of Health has also allocated €4m in new funding in 2021 to address the addiction and mental health needs of people who are homeless, including health supports for 218 new tenancies under the Housing First programme and a customised health care plan for 1,300 single people living in emergency accommodation.
The Taskforce also heard this morning that the Housing First Programme has surpassed 500 tenancies and is on track to meet its target of 663 tenancies before the end of the year. The Programme will then be expanded in line with the Programme for Government commitment and new targets will be set. This work to prepare for the expansion of Housing First is already underway.
Commenting following the meeting Minister O’Brien said, “We are delivering more new homes, but addressing homelessness involves more than building houses. Many people who are homeless, particularly rough sleepers, have complex needs. Co-ordination between agencies is critical, and this has been a priority for me as Minister. I have worked closely with Ministers Donnelly and Feighan and we are committed to a joined-up way of working.
“I am particularly pleased with the progress of the Housing First programme which has now surpassed 500 tenancies. Housing First enables people who may have been homeless and who have high levels of complex needs to obtain permanent secure accommodation with integrated wrap-around health and tenancy supports to help them in maintaining a tenancy and optimal physical and mental health. Housing First services are now active in all regions in the country and the funding is in place to expand it further.
Speaking at the meeting Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Frank Feighan said, “The recent surge in COVID-19 is a major challenge for homeless services. The enhanced health supports put in place in the HSE winter plan are protecting the most vulnerable at this critical time.
“In addition, new health funding streams are provided in the HSE national service plan 2021 to support mental health and addiction services for homeless people, and for the Housing First programme.
“I am committed to providing enhanced health supports to ensure that people who are homeless are supported to exit homelessness into permanent housing solutions, especially those with complex mental health and addiction needs,” he concluded.
Homeless Quarterly Progress Report for Quarter 4 and Monthly Homeless Report for December 2020
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD has today (29 January, 2021) published the Monthly Homeless Report for December 2020 and the Homeless Quarterly Progress Report for the fourth quarter of 2020.
The quarterly progress report is prepared by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, based on quarterly performance reports submitted by the nine regional lead authorities responsible for the administration of homeless services at local level.
The number of individuals presenting to homeless services and the number of people accessing emergency accommodation reduced considerably in 2020. At the end of 2020, there were 8,200 individuals accessing emergency accommodation, a decrease of 1,531 individuals (15.7%) on the 9,731 total recorded at end of 2019. The decrease in family homelessness was more pronounced. The year-on-year position is that December 2020 showed a decrease of 578 families (37.3%) on the 1,548 total recorded in December 2019. This represents the lowest number of families in emergency accommodation since March 2016.
The quarterly progress report shows that 1,485 adults and their dependants exited from emergency accommodation or were prevented from entering into emergency accommodation in the fourth quarter of 2020. Overall in 2020, a total of 5,886 such exits from homelessness have been achieved. All these exits were to homes with tenancies.
The quarterly performance report also records the number of families who are prevented from entering emergency accommodation by way of a tenancy being created, and the number of families exiting from emergency accommodation in the Dublin Region. The report shows that 53% of families presenting to homeless services in 2020 were prevented from having to enter emergency accommodation through a tenancy having been created.
In 2020, 1,221 families exited emergency accommodation in Dublin into a tenancy. There were 2,066 dependants associated with these families. This represents a 10% increase on the number of families exiting emergency accommodation in Dublin in 2019, despite there being fewer families in emergency accommodation in 2020 than was the case in 2019.
The monthly report for December 2020, which is also published today, indicates that the total number of homeless individuals, including dependants fell from 8,484 in November to 8,200 at end December, a decrease of 284 (3.3%).
Of the homeless adults recorded in December, 4,447 (76%) are single adults (adults who are not part of a family unit). This is a decrease of 89 (2%) on the 4,536 single adults recorded the previous month.
There were 970 families in emergency accommodation in the December survey week, a decrease of 64 (6.2%) on the 1,034 recorded in November 2020. A total of 2,327 dependants, associated with these families, were in emergency accommodation, a decrease of 125 on the 2,452 recorded in November 2020. This is the lowest number of dependants recorded since June 2016. The year on year position is that December 2020 showed a decrease of 1,095 (32%) dependants on the 3,422 total recorded in emergency accommodation in December 2019.
Housing First provides homeless people with high support needs with housing and the wraparound supports required to maintain a tenancy. The programme delivered 49 tenancies in quarter four of 2020. There are now 509 active Housing First tenancies nationwide with a target of 663 tenancies by the end of 2021 and a commitment to further expand the scheme.
Commenting on the details contained in the reports published today, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said, “Significant progress has been made in addressing homelessness in 2020 and this is evident from the end-of-year figures. The numbers in emergency accommodation fell by almost 16% over the past year. Family homelessness is at its lowest level since March 2016. Within these families, we have lowest number of dependants recorded as homeless since June 2016.
These reductions are not just down to the enhanced private rented sector protections introduced during COVID-19. Local authorities and voluntary organisations have done a huge amount of work, and the Government has taken a lead role in providing investment and support.
“While these current trends are positive, we still have a lot of work to do and homelessness remains unacceptably high. My long-term vision is to have more social and affordable homes with much fewer people in emergency accommodation. We want housing for all. We need to support people in their immediate need for shelter, food and support. But we have to have a longer term objective of moving each person out of homelessness, no matter how complex their personal circumstances.
“Supply is critical. We are spending more money than any other Government previously on housing. We are making progress. The overall budget for social housing delivery in 2021 is €3.3 billion which is more than any other Government has provided in a single year. We also want to see people being able to buy and own their own home and to ensure that these homes are affordable. We are putting the supports and specific policy initiatives in place to make this happen.
“Rough sleepers are at the very sharp end of homelessness and are among the most vulnerable individuals in society. Rough sleeping is a persistent issue and is one that rightly demands a lot of attention and resources, especially during COVID-19. There should be a bed available for everyone who needs one. This was not always the case, but it is now and the Government has provided the resources to make sure that this is the case. Where issues have arisen and been brought to my attention, or where clarity was needed on the provision of emergency accommodation, I have acted as Minister. Nobody should be sleeping rough for want of a bed. Outreach teams have been enhanced and they operate into the night to interact with people on the street. They often have multiple engagements with individuals to encourage people to take up offers of a bed or to return to accommodation they may already have. I want to see this work continue, with the Government providing the necessary supports,” concluded Minister O’Brien.
-Deadline for applying for Local Authority mortgage payment break
extended to 31st March 2021-
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, confirmed today (27th January 2021) that the mortgage payment break already in place for local authority home loan borrowers will be extended for those continuing to face difficulties due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Local authority home loan borrowers could already avail of three payment breaks totalling up to nine months and borrowers who take up a fourth payment break will be contacted by their local authority during the payment break to assess their financial situation and discuss options if necessary.
Minister O’Brien also confirmed that he is also extending the deadline for applying for a Local Authority mortgage payment break until 31st March 2021 to provide for borrowers who may yet suffer setbacks in the coming months.
Commenting he said, “Given the continuing economic turbulence associated with COVID-19, some local authority home loan borrowers continue to face difficulties in paying their mortgage or have very real fears that they will face repayment problems in the future.
“To help people in this situation, I am extending the mortgage payment break period by another three months, allowing people a total of twelve months to get back on their feet. I am also extending the deadline for applying for a mortgage payment break until 31st March 2021 to provide for borrowers who may yet suffer setbacks in the coming months.
“I would strongly encourage any local authority home loan borrower who is seeking a further payment break to engage with their local authority as soon as possible so that their financial situation can be assessed and so they can discuss alternative payment options if necessary,” he concluded.
No additional costs to the original home loan balance arise for the borrower who avails of these measures, as borrowers are not charged interest for the period of the mortgage payment breaks.
Local Authority home loan borrowers facing difficulties due to COVID-19 are urged to contact their local authority as soon as possible to access the application. Information will be available on each local authority’s website.
In line with the IAG’s recommendations, the Government has decided that the directly elected mayor will have many of the executive functions currently held by the local authority’s Chief Executive. These areas include: housing and building; road transport and safety; strategic development and environmental services. Minister Burke laid the IAG’s report (available shortly here) before the Houses of the Oireachtas today.
The Government today also sanctioned Government Departments to explore the potential transfer of additional functions to a directly elected mayor for Limerick once the role has been created.
The proposed legislation will be consistent with the IAG’s recommended governance structures. These will include:
“I want to again thank the implementation advisory group, chaired by Tim O’Connor, for its work in producing the report. The Government has accepted the recommendations on how the council should be structured. Some of the report recommendations would have far-reaching consequences and require further consideration.”
Minister Burke and the Government aims to publish legislation in the second quarter of this year. This legislation, if enacted, would enable the Programme for Government commitment to an election for a directly elected mayor in Limerick in 2021 to be met.
Ministers Humphreys and O’Brien announce that over 3,000 projects have been supported through 2020 Community Enhancement Programme
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien TD, have today announced that over 3,000 projects have been supported through the 2020 Community Enhancement Programme (CEP).
The Programme, funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, is designed to support community groups, particularly in disadvantaged areas, through the provision of small capital grants.
Among the projects funded in 2020 include childcare groups and playgrounds, recreational groups, community gardens and premises, sports grounds and initiatives that support the elderly.
There were two rounds of this funding in 2020 – June and August - with a total of €7m available to improve facilities.
In total 3,068 projects are being funded.
Commenting today, Minister Humphreys stated:
“The Community Enhancement Programme has supported a varied and wide-ranging list of projects in every county of Ireland across 2020.
The Programme shows how relatively small amounts of funding can make a big difference to communities and organisations that carry out really important work.
“If we’ve learned anything in recent months, as we’ve coped with this Pandemic, it’s the importance of our small community groups.
“They have gone above and beyond in 2020 and I am delighted as Minister to support them.
Minister O’Brien stated:
“The work completed by community and voluntary groups each year is hugely important and can be seen in communities around the country.
“I am delighted that an additional €5 million was secured as part of the July Stimulus for community centres which is making a big difference across the country.”
“The projects listed show the value of work being completed and I would encourage groups to contact their Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) for information on the 2021 CEP when this is launched later this year.
Some examples of the type of projects supported include:
Co. Louth: Irish Wheelchair Association Louth: €3,200
Some county-by-county examples of community centre projects supported through CEP in August:
· Galway City: Doughiska Roscam Ardaun Community Development Company: €25,622
· Kerry: Tralee Community Garden Project: €3,750
· Laois: Rosenallis Community Centre: €15,350
· Louth: Redeemer Family Resource Centre: €11,650
· Meath: Enfield Development Group: €14,457
Today’s announcement follows open application processes which were administered by Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs) in each Local Authority area.
This ensures that LCDCs can use their local experience to ensure the funding goes to where it is needed most. It is intended to run the programme again in 2021.
The list of projects supported to date under both rounds of the Community Enhancement Programme is available on the Government’s Website.