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Focus Ireland expresses deep concern that lone parents account for over half of families who are homeless according to a new report

Focus Ireland has welcomed the new report published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Ihrec) and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and called for concerted action to address the extent of homelessness among lone parent families. For several years, Focus Ireland has been highlighting the alarming fact that lone parents account for over half of families who are homeless, and welcomed the additional evidence and analysis on the issue from the IHREC and the ESRI. The charity is calling for an expert task force, led by the Department of the Taoiseach under the Housing For All strategy to examine the complex policy failures which result in lone parent families having such a high level of homelessness and to offer solutions.

Focus Ireland had earlier expressed its concern that last week’s Housing for All strategy did not pay enough attention to the ongoing problem of family homelessness, and the long-term harm it is causing children in families who are homeless. The reality is that many loan parents are losing their homes and becoming homeless due to the pressures of a dysfunctional housing system.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: “Over the last seven years’ large number of households with families are becoming homeless because their landlords are evicting them to sell the premises, unless this is resolved, there is a real risk that loan parent homelessness will continue to rise. Family homeless is now (905) three time higher than in May 2014 when the then Minister for Housing declared it an “emergency crisis’ (349).  Despite the decline in family homelessness since Covid 19, due to collaboration from the state, local authorities and NGOs, The Department of Children, Tusla and the Department of Education must have a much greater engagement in these issues than has been the case to date.”

In its submission to Housing For All earlier this year, Focus Ireland noted that a number of rules and regulations in relation to means-tests and housing assessments operate in a way which can undermine housing options and security for separated parents, most frequently women with custody of children. While none of these issues may result in immediate homelessness, in many cases they combine and over time to contribute to the extremely disproportionate number of single mothers in homeless accommodation.

Issues include:

  • Difficulty in accessing housing support while retaining an interest in the family home.
  • Absence of short-term support for mortgage interest during periods of crisis (since the abolition of Mortgage Interest Supplement in 2014
  • Requirement for separated partner consent in cases of Mortgage Arrears Resolution
  • Definition of ‘First Time Buyer’ in access Help to Buy or Rebuilding Ireland loans
  • Contribution of separated partner to mortgage being treated as ‘maintenance’ for means-testing
  • Treatment of ‘maintenance’ as means for Rent Supplement, whether paid or not.

As part of ‘Housing For All’, the Government should convene an expert group, including policy staff from all relevant Departments and Agencies along with Lone Parent representatives, to review all schemes which unfairly increase housing insecurity for families in these circumstances.

Praising the  Ihrec and ESRI report Mr Allen added: “In order to end any crisis it is vital to fully understand the situation and this research outlines the facts clearly with solid data which needs to be examined by the relevant Government Departments and Ministers.”

This report also discusses the greater difficulties and disadvantages faced by ethnic groups, issues which have been previously highlighted in Focus Ireland research.

 

Conor Culkin

Communications Officer

Focus Ireland

086 468 0442

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