Abuse victims add to numbers of homeless, Oireachtas committee told

A lack of refuges for victims of domestic violence has left many families homeless

A senior Department of Finance official warned it would be “very difficult” to build enough social housing and stay within European fiscal rules.

A senior Department of Finance official warned it would be “very difficult” to build enough social housing and stay within European fiscal rules.

 

Up to one in four families entering homelessness is fleeing domestic violence, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Fiona Ryan, chief executive of Sonas, the largest provider of frontline services to families experiencing domestic violence, told the Committee on Housing and Homelessness her colleagues were turning away five times as many families as they could accommodate. “These families are sleeping on families’ couches, on floors and entering homelessness,” said Ms Ryan.

“It is a massive hidden problem. This particular cohort of the homeless population is at additional risk.” The danger to women and children “escalates” in the six months after they flee abuse, she said.

Stephanie Holt, assistant professor in social science at Trinity College Dublin, said children exposed to domestic violence had an “enduring experience” of “fear, anger and living with parents whose parenting capacity is compromised”. They were at increased risk of physical and sexual abuse, mental health problems and were among the “most distressed children in the population”. Ms Ryan said refuges were “overwhelmed”.

Manage the abuse

“There needs to be a real conversation between the new Department of Housing, Tusla and the Department of Justice. There needs to be real interagency working,” she said.

Earlier, a senior Department of Finance official warned it would be “very difficult” to build enough social housing and stay within European fiscal rules.

Eoin Dorgan, principal officer with the department, said any expenditure that did not make a return sufficient to break even meant it was “on balance sheet” and could break the EU fiscal rules.

“It is very difficult to keep social housing off balance sheet,” he said. Ruth Coppinger (AAA-PBP) said that if the Government had to break the fiscal rules, then it should do so.

Social housing

Ireland

Mr Ó Broin said Narps could invite local authorities to propose housing schemes on their own land. The specification should be 30 per cent of the units should be social housing, 30 per cent rental housing and 30 per cent affordable housing for sale. The housing would be built by contracted construction companies. Rental and sale income would repay the ISIF loan.

Conor O’Kelly, chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), said the suggestion could work. He said he would “bring it back” to colleagues to discuss. He also agreed “a larger version of Narps” may be necessary.

Barry Cowen said the Department of Finance and the NTMA should “insist”on the establishment of a housing authority to drive large-scale house-building, while Bernard Durkan said he did not believe approved housing bodies “could handle the magnitude of the problem we’re facing”. Only local authorities were up to the task of providing sufficient social housing.