State funding for homeless services falls 20%

Government funding for homeless services has fallen by almost 20% in only three years with Dublin bearing the brunt of the cutbacks.

According to figures released by the Department of the Environment, in 2010 the Government provided housing authorities with almost €55m to spend on the cost of homeless accommodation and related services. By 2013 that total had fallen to €45m. The same amount is being pledged for next year.

Unsurprisingly given its population density and the extent of the homeless problem there, Dublin receives the lion’s share of the funding for homeless accommodation — in 2010 it received over €40m or 75% of the total.

However, in 2013, its homeless funding dropped by almost €9m to €31m.

That compared with small drops in some local authority areas and increases in a number of others, including the South-West.

That being said, there were year-on-year drops across the entire country between 2012 and 2013.

The significant drop is in spite of the fact that, according to a recent report by Dublin Simon Community, the number of people sleeping on the streets of the inner city has risen by 88% since last year. The figures also fly in the face of the Government’s national strategy to end long-term homelessness by 2016.

The Department of the Environment said the “recoupment” figures for the years 2010 to 2012 represented the pattern of claims made by housing authorities to the department. “Housing authorities are continuously encouraged to seek efficiencies and savings while at the same time minimising the impact on end-users of the services,” it said.

It also pointed out that homelessness funding had been substantially protected over the past number of years “despite the wide-scale pressure for reductions in government spending across all departments”.

Mike Allen, director of advocacy at homeless charity Focus Ireland, said the figures showed the extent of the deep cuts to homeless services during a period when the number of families and individuals who are homeless or at risk of losing their home has been rising.

He said that until this year, the funding cuts had been absorbed through greater efficiencies and new partnerships among services as well as a drop in the cost of payments by the State to private landlords providing emergency accommodation for people who are homeless.

However, he said that this year the cuts had begun to hit frontline services outside Dublin with many seeing cutbacks of between 7% and 10% while there is a continuing rise in the numbers of people seeking support.

“Focus Ireland has seen a 23% increase in the numbers we are supporting from 6,500 to over 8,000 people who are either homeless or at risk of losing their home.

“Homeless services are already stretched to breaking point working hard to meet this demand and we have been warned there will be worse cuts in Dublin next year.”


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