MIL-OSI Europe: O’Brien updates Government on homelessness measures

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Source: Government of Ireland

Published on 

O’Brien updates Government on homelessness measures

  • Housing First National Implementation Plan (2022-2026) to be published in coming weeks
  • National Homeless Action Committee to be established
  • New guidance to be given to local authorities on Homelessness Action Plans

The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, has updated Cabinet colleagues on recent homelessness trends and policy actions.

Minister O’Brien informed colleagues of his intention to publish a new Housing First National Implementation Plan covering the period 2022 to 2026, to establish a new National Homeless Action Committee and to issue guidance on Local Authority Homelessness Action Plans.

The Minister said the recent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness was a serious concern for the Government and that his Department were acting accordingly in progressing a number of measures which will help to prevent entries into homelessness in the first instance and to assist those currently experiencing homelessness to successfully exit into safe and secure tenancies.

The new Housing First National Implementation Plan, which is due to be published in December, will provide for over 1,200 tenancies over the next five years. Under the current plan 663 Housing First tenancies were due to be delivered to the end of 2021. This target has been surpassed and as of September 2021 695 tenancies had been delivered under Housing First. 

A new National Homeless Action Committee is being set up to oversee implementation of inter-agency measures committed to under Housing for All, including accelerating the delivery of new supports. The committee – which will comprise of Government departments, State agencies and key stakeholders – will achieve greater coherence and coordination of homeless services. The committee will oversee the interagency actions outlined in Housing for All, and Minister O’Brien will chair the committee.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is also drafting guidance that will require local authorities to have regard to Housing for All in drafting or amending their statutory Homelessness Action Plans. This requirement is aimed at ensuring greater coordination and alignment between actions locally and policy nationally. The drafting of the guidance is underway and will be issued before the end of the year.

Commenting after notifying Cabinet of the initiatives, Minister O’Brien said: “Yesterday I notified Government about a range of measures I am taking to tackle homelessness, key actions contained in Housing for All. Housing First is a vital response to ending long-term homelessness. It does this by providing those who are sleeping rough, and those who are long-term users of homeless accommodation, with their own permanent home whilst also addressing complex health and mental health needs. The current plan has been hugely successful, exceeding the targets set out in the plan with a high tenancy sustainment rate. I would like to thank our NGO partners who, with the support of Government, are implementing the Housing First initiative.

“The new National Homeless Action Committee which I am establishing and Chairing will bring together all the relevant support services, ensuring there is greater cooperation and coordination in tackling homelessness, while the new guidance on Homelessness Action Plans will make sure the key actions on homelessness, outlined in Housing for All, are at the forefront of how our local authorities design and deliver measures to prevent and reduce homelessness,” he concluded. 

ENDS

Notes to editor

Housing First

  • Housing First is one of the key responses to ending long-term homelessness among those with complex health and mental health needs. It is a housing-led approach that provides a person with high support needs who is sleeping rough, or who has been a long-term user of homeless accommodation, with their own permanent home, as well as access to intensive and specialised support services.
  • By the end of September, 695 Housing First tenancies were created under the current Housing First Implementation Plan (2018-2021), 32 more than the 663 tenancies that were targeted by the end of 2021. Individuals are housed and supported in their own homes under the Housing First Programme. Even if a tenancy fails, Housing First continues to support the individual to another tenancy. Housing First provides the most vulnerable of our homeless population with a home for life.
  • The successor to this National Implementation Plan, covering the period 2022-2026, is due for publication in the coming weeks.  It includes targets that were based on research and analysis undertaken by the Housing Agency. It is expected that the recommended number of new tenancies will marginally exceed the 1,200 figure committed to in Housing for All. 
  • Work on the new National Implementation Plan is progressing under the oversight of the National Implementation Group. The group comprises officials from the Minister’s Department, the Department of Health, the HSE, the Probation Service, local government sector (the County and City Management Association), the Probation Service, the Genio Trust (which funds certain elements) and the National Director of Housing First. The Group is co-chaired by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Department of Health.

 

National Homeless Action Committee Membership

  • The National Homeless Action Committee is a cross-governmental, inter-agency and stakeholder group.  It will assist in the delivery of the homeless actions contained in Housing for All, by ensuring better coherence and co-ordination of homeless-related services in delivering policy measures and actions.
  • The National Homeless Action Committee will be comprised of representatives from identified Government Departments and State agencies with key roles in addressing all aspects of homelessness, as well as partners from the NGO sector. 
  • The committee will meet on a quarterly basis. It is expected that it will report after each meeting on progress in implementing the inter-agency actions in Housing for All, and other current issues.

Guidance on integrating Housing for All into statutory Homelessness Action Plans

  • The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. 
  • Statutory responsibility for the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons rests with individual local authorities.
  • While responsibility for the provision of accommodation and services for homeless persons rests with individual local authorities, the administration of homeless services is organised on a regional basis, with nine administrative regions in place. 
  • Homelessness Action Plans require local authorities to set out proposed measures to prevent and reduce homelessness, to assist homeless and formerly homeless people, as well as provide services to homeless households.
  • Homelessness Action Plans have a legislative basis in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009. It provides that Homelessness Action Plans take account of “such policies and objectives for the time being of the Government or the Minister in so far as they may affect or relate to the provision of services to homeless persons”.
  • Local authorities are required to ensure that the plans take into account the costs of proposed measures and the financial resources available, as well as the levels of homelessness in the region.
  • Guidance on integrating Housing for All into a local authority’s statutory Homelessness Action Plan will be issued with the aim of ensuring coordination and alignment between local actions and national policy – something considered essential in delivering Housing for All’s commitments in the area of eradicating homelessness.

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