Dublin council warns cost of homeless services will rise

Head of finance says rent allowance cap is leading to increase in homelessness in city

Dublin City Council has said the cap placed on rent allowance payments is contributing to homelessness. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Dublin City Council has said the cap placed on rent allowance payments is contributing to homelessness. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Fresh tensions have emerged between Dublin City Council and the Government over the homelessness crisis.

In the council’s latest audited accounts, head of finance Kathy Quinn criticises the cap placed on rent allowance payments and the shift away from the Department of the Environment traditionally refunding 90 per cent of local authority costs.

Ms Quinn said an increasing number of families were presenting as homeless, many of whom have to be accommodated on a temporary basis in hotels, which is “expensive and unsatisfactory”.

Ms Quinn said a key factor in the rising number of homeless has been the inability to sustain accommodation because of the Government’s cap on rent supplement payments.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has refused to increase the allowance despite significant pressure.

In the accounts, Ms Quinn said the funds being spent on homeless services increased “disproportionately to other local authority service costs in 2014”.

Escalate

“The problem of increased demand for homeless services for the city council, and to a lesser extent for the other Dublin local authorities [the service is managed on a regional basis by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive], has been compounded by the fact that there has been a significant departure from the traditional 90 per cent recoupment of expenditure on homeless services from the State,” she said.

The Department of the Environment does not fund any homeless service directly.

Each local authority funds its own services and then recoups 90 per cent of the cost from the department.

The remaining 10 per cent comes from the local authority’s own resources.

Dublin City Council’s audited accounts show the total expenditure on homelessness services in 2014 was €43.1 million, increasing to €59.2 million this year.

Recouped

Local authorities provided between 6 and 7 per cent in 2014 and 2015, while the Health Service Executive issued less than 2 per cent.

The council has now set up a contingency fund of €5.1 million due to the increasing demand.

The accounts, which are sent to every Dublin city councillor, also detail how the council is owed €6.5 million in domestic waste collection payments and is unlikely to get it back.

The report said: “Debtors at the end of 2014 amounted to €6.5 million and in the circumstances it appears likely that the collection of these arrears will be difficult.”

A project team has been set up by the council to investigate and put forward proposals to resolve this issue. A decision on how to address the arrears will be determined by the end of 2015, the report says.