Councils refuse to remove families from homeless tally

Kildare, Meath and Wicklow authorities urged to recategorise some people on list

A total of 578 people were removed from the March homeless statistics. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

A total of 578 people were removed from the March homeless statistics. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Three local authorities refused to remove families from their homeless figures despite the Department of Housing urging them to do so.

Kildare County Council, lead authority for compiling figures for the Mid-East region which also includes Meath and Wicklow County Council areas, told The Irish Times the department had been in contact “to discuss families who were being classified as homeless but who were staying in transitional local authority-owned houses or private houses . . . with a view to recategorising these families.”

The spokesman added that “as the transitional accommodation provided does not meet the needs of the families concerned the Mid-East region did not recategorise these families and they were reported as being in temporary emergency accommodation. It is not intended to remove such families from the homeless category for the April figures.”

Meanwhile, other local authorities – including the four in Dublin – have confirmed families they removed from the March homeless figures, at the request of Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, are still in accommodation funded from the homeless budget.

The revelations come as Mr Murphy refuses to appear before the Oireachtas committee on housing. He is being asked to do so to explain removal of 578 people from the March homeless statistics and his proposal to remove another 200 from April’s figures. Those statistics will be published at the end of May.

The most recent homeless data showed a reduction from 9,807 in February, to 9,681 in March. The number of adults classified as destitute fell from 6,052 in February to 6,035 in March and children from 3,755 to 3,646.

The department said last week it had established that several local authorities had “miscategorised” 247 adults and 331 children as homeless and consequently these were deducted from the March figures.

‘Massaging figures’

While Mr Murphy said the 578 were in “homes”, Opposition TDs said they were in temporary accommodation and not in secure tenancies. This amounted to a “reclassification” of homelessness by the Minister, they added. Moreover, they argued the move constituted an attempt to “massage the figures down, for political purposes”.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive, which manages homeless services for the four Dublin local authorities, confirmed it had removed 26 families. These included 39 adults and 85 children from the March numbers as they were “in social housing units or in properties with leasing arrangements” and not hotels or hubs.

A spokeswoman confirmed the units were not permanent homes and were paid for from a stream known as section 10 funding, provided for in the 1988 Housing Act. It sets out the circumstances in which a local authority may fund “accommodation for a homeless person”.

Asked whether the 124 people removed from the homeless list last month were in accommodation funded from the homeless budget, the spokeswoman for the executive replied: “Yes the funding is section 10 homeless funding for the moment until the new leasing arrangements come into place.”

Political dispute

In Waterford, seven families, including 12 adults and 24 children, were “recategorised as they were being accommodated in [council] housing stock”, said a Waterford City and County Council (WCCC) spokeswoman and they were removed from the March homeless figures.

“The provision of the accommodation in each of these cases was not intended as permanent” but was used “to avoid having the families in emergency B&B accommodation. The actual houses provided . . . were not regarded by WCCC as meeting the long-term accommodation needs of the families concerned . . . The families concerned have been provided with support which is funded by section 10.”

The Oireachtas housing committee last week asked Mr Murphy to appear to discuss the row over recategorisation and concerns that South Dublin County Council may be instructed to remove 65 families, about 200 people, from its April figures.

His office said the Minister “has requested a report on the issue of the homeless figures . . . Until such a time as the report is complete . . . he would like to refrain from addressing the committee solely on that specified topic”.