Focus Ireland Warns of "Tipping Point" Following Budget 2013

This week Focus Ireland has issued a stark warning as it launched its Pre-Budget Submission which calls for the Government to protect hard-pressed low income households in order to prevent a deepening homeless crisis.

Focus Ireland said that the impact of the recession – combined with repeated cuts to funding in recent years - has already pushed many families and single people to the brink of homelessness.

The continued failure to provide affordable housing is also keeping many families and single people trapped as homeless -  staying in unsuitable and expensive emergency accommodation.

"Focus Ireland believes that given the current situation it is vital that there are no cuts to homeless services in the coming Budget."

Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland said: “Rising unemployment and cuts to some welfare supports have pushed many people even deeper into debt.  We are already seeing more people than ever seeking Focus Ireland’s support as they are at risk of losing – or have already lost - their accommodation purely for economic reasons as they are drowning in debt.”

Focus Ireland warned that another Budget which fails to protect people struggling on low incomes or welfare will mean more people at risk of losing their home – this applies both to people paying rent or paying mortgages.

Mr. Allen added: “The Government has to fully realise that some people are only just about holding on to their homes. Focus Ireland believes that given the current situation it is vital that there are no cuts to homeless services in the coming Budget. There must also be firm action to protect low income households so people do not lose their existing accommodation and become homeless.”

Focus Ireland said that support services are already struggling to cope with rising demand.

The charity’s services benefited just under 7,500 people in 2011 compared to 6,500 people in 2010.  Focus Ireland said there is continued rising demand for support this year and its prevention services recorded an 18% rise over a 12 month period from 2011 to 2012.

Focus Ireland is urging people in difficulties to contact the charity at its offices around the country (Details at www.focusireland.ie) or other support services such as MAB’s as early as possible to avoid a serious problem from becoming a crisis.

Focus Ireland’s Pre-Budget Submission outlines three key priorities and outlines some specific actions to help combat and prevent homeliness under these headings.

The priorities are:

  1. Ending Homelessness by Providing Homes.
  2. Preventing Homelessness.
  3. Protecting Low Income Households.

Some specific actions under these heading include:

  • Deliver a €400m boost to capital funding to build  social housing in Dublin in Budget 2013, as part of the stimulus package to create jobs and meet social needs
  • No further cuts in Department of Environment or HSE funding for homeless services
  • No further cuts to Rent Supplement limits in Budget 2013
  • Aftercare funding to be provided and ring-fenced for the National Aftercare Strategy Implementation Plan
  • Maintain social welfare payment for people of working age
  • Ensure that  family and child income supports are not reduced for  low income families, including those in low paid employment and dependent upon Family Income Supplement.

You can view the Pre-Budget Submission here.

Focus Ireland said that taking action to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and to also improve access to housing to help end long-term homelessness would also actually save the State money as well as improving the lives of thousands of the most marginalized people in society.

Providing emergency homeless accommodation can cost up to €30,000 a year for a bed, while providing a home with support for those who need it to move on from homelessness, even in Dublin, can cost less than €14,500.

The charity also said that the Government is failing to protect the most vulnerable and stressed that some previous cuts are actually forcing people into homelessness. For example: The previous cuts to rent supplement limits have already contributed to  some people becoming homeless - and is keeping others trapped as in emergency accommodation – as people can’t secure accommodation under the reduced rent limits.

Focus Ireland said the good news is that long-term homelessness can be solved if access to housing is improvedas the charity’s experience demonstrates that it’s possible to support people to move on from homelessness and settle back into local communities – once the housing and supports required are in place.

Focus Ireland has realigned its own services in recent years to place a greater emphasis on targeted prevention services along with provision of advice and information.  The charity is already seeing the impact as  this work is directly helping to prevent more people from becoming homeless.

www.focusireland.ie