Taoiseach is called on to take leadership on homeless crisis

A multi-agency task force headed by the Taoiseach or Tánaiste is needed to tackle Ireland’s homelessness crisis, a leading charity has said. 

“The Taoiseach says there needs to be more joined up thinking, but I think his comments were more to do with local authorities, homeless agencies, etc,” Francis Doherty, Communications and Advocacy Manager of the Peter McVerry Trust, told The Irish Catholic. “We’d call for a multi-agency task force looking at all issues with the Department of the Environment, Social Protection, Children’s Affairs, Justice – all the departments looking at this together.

“In terms of leadership that has to be led by the Taoiseach or Tánaiste,” he said.

Mr Doherty’s comments come in the aftermath of revelations that 130,000 households are on waiting lists for social housing, 41,000 more than previously believed, and claims by the Department of Social Protection that an 8% rent supplement rise would cost €21 million and deliver just 10 new housing units in Dublin.

“We get the impression that departments aren’t talking to one another,” Mr Doherty said. “The Department of Social Protection will see an increase in its budget because they’ll spend more on rent supplement, but overall Government spending would see a decrease because it wouldn’t be spending money on expensive homeless accommodation.

“It’s much cheaper to increase supplements than to fund emergency accommodation,” he added.

Describing an apparent reluctance of Government departments and Oireachtas committees to engage with issues that might be seen as outside their remit, he said “It’s almost as though nobody wants to accept responsibility – we’re crying out for high level leadership”.

While the charity believes more work could be done to enable local authorities and charities better to work together, Mr Doherty said “there’s still a need for a cross-department working group led by the Taoiseach or Tánaiste to look at all issues and all proposals to make sure it’s all coherent and coordinated”.

Stressing that “we need to get beyond interdepartmental or cross-party competition,” he said, “the key thing is to make sure right people with the right influence are involved right at the top”.