Over 1,600 removed from homeless figures in ‘recategorisation’ exercise

Department of Housing accused of manipulating figures to stay below 10,000 threshold

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: said the official homelessness figures published by the department were now ‘meaningless’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: said the official homelessness figures published by the department were now ‘meaningless’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

More than 1,600 people have been removed from official homeless figures since March as part of a “recategorisation” exercise, the Department of Housing has confirmed.

In a report published alongside the August homelessness figures – which say there was a drop of 364 people in emergency accommodation from 9,891 in July to 9,527 last month – the department says some 571 people were removed from the figures in March.

A further 294 were removed in April, and, at a time not specified in the report, another 741 people were removed from the homelessness figures.

This is a total of 1,606 – 625 adults and 981 children – who had been categorised by their local authorities as homeless but have now been removed at the request of the Department of Housing.

If they were still included in the figures, the official homeless figures would now be 11,133.

Focus Ireland, the lead agency supporting homeless families in Dublin, said the “latest confusion” would “not be tolerated” in any other area of Government data collection.

“The inability of the Government to produce reliable and clear figures on the number of people who are homeless does not inspire confidence,” it said.

It is time that the collation of homelessness figures is taken right out of the hands of the department and handed to an independent body

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin said the official homelessness figures published by the department were now “meaningless”.

“They are not worth the paper they are written on. We have no idea when the 741 people were removed from the figures. There is no consistency in them month to month. We have no idea whether the real number of people who are homeless is up or down, or what the trends are,” he said.

‘Worse than awful’

“It is worse than awful. It is time now that the collation of homelessness figures is taken right out of the hands of the department and handed to an independent body like the Central Statistics Office. ”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the recategorisation “really does look like manipulation of the figures to keep them under the 10,000 threshold”.

In its report the department says, following discussions in February “it was established that certain local authorities (LAs) had been categorising individuals and families who had been provided with accommodation in local authority-owned stock or in properties secured by the LAs under other arrangements, as being in emergency accommodation”.

Further information was sought after April and it showed “cases of houses and apartments being recorded as emergency accommodation”.

It is understood the overwhelming majority of those removed from the figures are in accommodation funded through a homelessness accommodation stream known as “Section 10 funding”. Though they are in apartments or houses, these families do not have leases or come under the remit of the Residential Tenancies Board.

‘Misleading’

The controversy comes on the heels of others in recent days in which Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy has been accused of issuing “misleading” figures.

On Thursday he issued a report on social housing output, asserting “12,358 additional housing solutions” had been provided in the first six months of this year. The figures showed just 487, or 4 per cent, were new builds by councils.

His assertion on Wednesday that the number of households in need of housing support had fallen by 14,000 in the past year were rejected by Mr Ó Broin, given 13,355 tenancies had been created using the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) at the same time.

A household deemed eligible for HAP is deemed as qualifying for housing support, but is not counted on the central housing list as they have been deemed “housed”. If they were on the list and moved from rent supplement to HAP, they are removed from the central list.