Social housing report ‘targets most vulnerable’

A NEW report on how the Government should fund social housing ignores tenants and their needs, and targets the most vulnerable, it has been claimed.

It has also been criticised for containing no hard numbers or concepts and no plans for delivering more housing.

Due to be launched at the Irish Council of Social Housing (ICSH) biennial conference today, the Government-commissioned Grant Thornton report reviews how the state funds the voluntary sector and makes recommendations on how this could be improved.

John Hannigan, of housing charity Respond, however, said many recommendations were “unrealistic” and did not seem to make sense.

Mr Hannigan, who is set to give a critique of the report to delegates, said the voluntary sector would be unwilling to support many of its recommendations.

Branding it the “McCarthy Report” of the social housing sector, he said it targeted the most vulnerable by recommending they contribute towards their own rent.

“The capital assistance scheme (CAS) provides funding for specialised units for people with disabilities and the elderly, and has historically been 100% funded by government,” he said.

“The report recommends that the scheme remain for limited purposes, but with contributions from the tenant or the voluntary organisation – these are already the most vulnerable people and they don’t have the money to make any contributions,” he added.

Another recommendation that commercial units be built within social housing schemes to help subsidise them did not take the current economic situation into account, he said, and simply would not work.

Meanwhile, the director of homeless charity Trust delivered a blistering attack on Government policy in relation to its homeless strategy.

Alice Leahy, who spoke to delegates at the ICSH conference in Athlone last night, called on voluntary bodies not to comply with the Government’s decision to outsource housing support services for the homeless.

Ms Leahy branded the invitation to tender a declaration by the state that it is opting out of caring for the very poor and the most marginalised and “does not want to know”.

She warned that large blocks of empty apartments may appear to solve homelessness, but could easily become ghettos.

Vulnerable people, she said, should not be further consigned to a life of misery and isolation without adequate support services provided by the state.

She said she was not convinced voluntary bodies could provide the type of support homeless people needed and should have the courage to say so.

She urged the ICSH to ensure it was not complicit in this by accepting more and more outsourced services.


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