Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has directed that every local authority be reminded of their obligations to "meet the housing needs" of young people leaving State care. The move comes amid growing concern that a homelessness crisis among young people coming out of care once they reach 18 is emerging.
In recent months housing charity Focus Ireland warned that 30 per cent of the young people leaving care with whom it was working were either using homelessness services or staying short term on friends' or families' couches. The charity said that unless this was addressed "further tragedies" could occur.
Among the issues identified as contributing to the particular vulnerability of these young people has been a reluctance on the part of some local authorities to assess applicants for housing before they reach 18.
Another problem has been that young people dependent on rent supplement have to make a contribution to their rent out of their welfare payment, which has been difficult to manage for some. This has led to rent arrears.
The Minister last night described young people leaving care as a “key risk category” among those vulnerable to homelessness.
A protocol requires that preparations for every young person in care to leave that care be started three months before the young person’s 16th birthday.