Simon, the national charity for people who are homeless today (28th of November 2012) have launched their pre budget submission urging the Government not to make any further cuts to homeless services across the country. The Simon Communities work with up to 5,000 people who are homeless and those who are at risk every year and is seeing an increase in the number of people turning to their services for support in recent times.
Niamh Randall, Simon’s National Spokesperson said “Simon works with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom are dependent on Social Welfare payments. Access to housing, social welfare and to critical support services are essential to prevent people from becoming homeless and to support people to move out of homelessness”.
“Cuts to funding in the homeless sector must be avoided as demand for our services continues to rise; we are well beyond the point of being able to do more with less Further cutbacks to funding for health services, probation and welfare services, education and training services will have knock-on effects that contribute to homelessness. The Simon Communities throughout Ireland experience first-hand the dual pressures brought on by reduced funding and the growing numbers of people needing our help.”
Some of the areas Simon’s Pre budget Submission focuses on include: the need for upward review of rent supplement limits; no cuts to basic Social Welfare payments; that the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government maintains its budget for homeless services at 2011 levels; that 20% of these NAMA units should be ring fenced for people moving out of homelessness and that Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive budgets for homelessness must, at the very least, be maintained at 2012 levels.
Niamh Randall concludes: “People are now more vulnerable because of job losses, housing pressures and increased levels of poverty.. The people who turn to Simon often have nowhere else to go, their only option is their local Simon Community. It is essential that homelessness remains high on this Government’s agenda and that the homeless budget is protected ensuring we meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society”.
Simon’s Critical Priorities for Budget 2013
- Preventing homelessness and protecting those on low incomes
- Rent supplement limits must be reviewed upwards to reflect the current market value of rents which have continued to increase since 2011.
- The onus needs to be taken away from the tenant to renegotiate their rent with landlords.
- Cuts to basic Social Welfare payments need to be spared in Budget 2013. Cost of essential goods and services have continued to increase over the past 12 months while at the same time there were reductions in some vital allowances e.g. fuel allowance.
- Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance for those under 25 need to be revised upwards especially for vulnerable people. This age group are more at risk of becoming homeless as they are on such a low income and are struggling to pay for basic necessities along with rent.
Access to housing for people who are homeless
- It is critical that the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government maintains its budget for homeless services at 2011 levels. In addition, we would ask that a portion of Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) special needs funding is also ring fenced for homelessness.
- Funding under Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 should remain at 2012 levels, at a minimum.
- The Government announced the transfer of Rent Supplement from Department of Social Protection to DECLG in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) to be rolled out from 2013. This needs to happen sooner rather than later particularly in light of the difficulties outlined with Rent Supplement payments.
- Tighter legislation needs to be ensured to protect those who depend on the Private Rented Sector for a home.
- The 2,000 NAMA properties announced for social housing need to be realised immediately and more concerted efforts made in 2013 for the release of more units. Simon proposes that 20% of these units should be ring fenced for people moving out of homelessness. The units must be of adequate quality in areas where other supports are readily available to ensure an effective ‘housing –led approach’.
- The current Social Housing Leasing Initiative (SHLI) offer of 80% of market rent is too low making it unattractive to property owners resulting in the low take-up of the scheme. The Government need to look at ways of making it more attractive.
- A range of other housing options must be explored in greater depth to meet the long term housing need amongst people who are homeless including Capital Advanced Loan Facility and social housing allocations and prioritisation.
Vital funding and essential support
- Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive budgets must, at the very least, be maintained at 2012 levels. It is vital that sufficient supports are in place aimed at reducing drug and alcohol related harm and offering pathways to treatment, and that further cuts to services must be avoided.
- The development of Community Health Services needs to be continued to be realised. We support MHR in their submission to ensure that the annual €35 million budget ring fenced for Community Mental Health services continues in 2013.
- Current education and training programmes for people who are vulnerable in our society need to be maintained and improved upon. At present, many people who are homeless have been supported to gain qualifications and consequently secure jobs and housing.
About Simon Community:
The Simon Communities throughout Ireland provide the best possible care, accommodation and Support for people experiencing homelessness and those at risk. Together, with people who are homeless, we tackle the root causes, promote innovative responses and urge the government to fulfil their commitments. Simon delivers support and service to between
4, 500 and 5,000 individuals and families throughout Ireland who experience – or are at risk of – homelessness. The Simon Communities of Ireland is an affiliation of local Communities in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East.
Services range from
- Housing provision, tenancy sustainment & settlement services, housing advice & information services helping people to make the move out of homelessness & working with households at risk;
- Specialist health & treatment services addressing some of the issues which may have contributed to homeless occurring or may be a consequence;
- Emergency accommodation & support providing people with a place of welcome, warmth & safety;
- Soup runs & rough sleeper teams who are often the first point of contact for people sleeping rough.
For media queries and interview requests
Linda Mc Kenny, Simon Communities of Ireland
Tel: 01 47 27 202/ 085 8065141 E:firstname.lastname@example.org