Housing Minister says 'no evidence' people are faking homelessness

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has disagreed with a claim by the outgoing chair of the Government Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, that some people are pretending to be homeless to skip housing queues.

Yesterday, the minister said he has “no evidence” to support the allegation.

Mr Skehan said that while the homelessness crisis was severe, some families were trying to “game the system” by wrongly registering as homeless to jump social-housing queues.

He said this was distorting the true scale of the crisis and making the homelessness rate seem worse than it was.

Mr Skehan said: “We unwittingly created a problem, by prioritising self-declared homelessness above all other types of housing need, which created a distortion in the waiting list system and may have encouraged people to game the system.”

The deeply controversial remark led to an immediate backlash from opposition parties and advocacy groups, while Dublin City Council’s housing and community services unit outright rejected Mr Skehan’s claims, in a key intervention later on Tuesday.

However, asked yesterday about the controversy, during a National Emergency Co-Ordination Group media briefing, in response to the Storm Eleanor situation, Mr Murphy said there is “no evidence” to back up the claim.

While stopping short of saying Mr Skehan was wrong to have made the claims, the housing minister said he was not aware of any information to support what was said.

“What I think Conor Skehan is saying is that it may have been an unintended consequence of previous government policy.

“Homelessness is a very complex issue; people find themselves in very difficult situations in their lives, from no fault of their own, and they come to our local authorities and emergency- response services looking for help.

“When they come for help, we do a detailed assessment to see how best we can help them and help them into emergency accommodation, but, ideally, put them into a permanent solution, if we can do that, as quickly as possible.

“Conor Skehan is the chair of the Housing Agency. He advises on government policy.

“It’s not for me to criticise him for doing that. It’s important that we have different voices in this debate.

“I’ve no evidence, in my department, of people presenting or trying to game the system.

“Again, Conor was saying that may have been an unintended consequence of previous government policy,” Mr Murphy said.

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