Housing minister accused of ‘Orwellian’ manipulation over homeless figures

SF says it is ‘extreme’ to suggest there’s progress on decreasing the number of homeless families

Eoghan Murphy stressed that while nationally the number of families accessing emergency accommodation was up, the overall trend was downwards. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Eoghan Murphy stressed that while nationally the number of families accessing emergency accommodation was up, the overall trend was downwards. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has been accused of Orwellian manipulation of the latest national homelessness figures.

Mr Murphy had stressed that while nationally the number of families accessing emergency accommodation services was up, the overall trend was downwards.

“More families in Dublin exited emergency accommodation than entered for two months in a row and it’s the first time that’s happened in three years,” he said.

But Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said it was “Orwellian in the extreme to suggest that there’s progress”.

He said the number of families in emergency accommodation in Dublin had fallen by a total of eight.

“But the number of children in emergency accommodation in Dublin has increased by 37, so that’s not progress,” he said.

“The total number of adults, children and families is up. So we now have approaching 8,500 adults and children in emergency accommodation.”

The two clashed in the Dáil during question time on housing, planning and local government.

Mr Murphy insisted that “we have to look at the trends”.

The September figures were released on Thursday from the Department of Housing.

Earlier the Minister told Fianna Fáil spokesman Barry Cowen that 690 families were currently in hotels and bed and breakfasts.

“But it is significantly down on the high of March when 871 families were in emergency accommodation. That is a 20 per cent decrease,” Mr Murphy said.

Eighty nine new families presented as homeless in September but the Minister said the rate of increase in homelessness between July and September was 1.8 per cent nationally, compared to 4.8 per cent for the three previous months.

He told Mr Ó Broin that the percentage decrease in homeless families in between July and September was 3.4 per cent cumulatively, compared to 3.2 per cent cumulatively in the three months to June.

He said this compared to the three months last year from July to September when there was a cumulative increase of 2.1 per cent in homelessness.

“We don’t separate out children from their parents when we talk about meeting the needs of these families.”

He said there were “more children unfortunately because more larger families have presented as homeless and some of the families who have exited are smaller families, single parents, but we treat them as a family unit, and we look for homes for those families and that is progress”.

Mr Murphy said he recognised that it was too slow but he said the efforts of voluntary bodies and local authorities were making a difference and as a result “there are more than 2,500 families who aren’t in emergency accommodation because of those efforts”.