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HSE defend their role in rent supplement scheme

first_imgWhatsApp NewsLocal NewsHSE defend their role in rent supplement schemeBy admin – October 30, 2009 360 THE HSE has dispelled what they describe as inaccurate claims made by local representatives in the application of their rental supplement scheme.Superintendent Community Welfare officer Eddie Murphy, has told the Limerick Post that accusations of reckless behaviour regarding the scheme are “unforgivable”. He also insisted that the funds for the supplement were drawn from the Social Welfare budget, and not the health budget, as, he said, has been a common misconception.Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up “We work under the legislation of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, and everything is governed by that”, added Mr. Murphy.He stated that, although all employees who administer any social welfare payments are staff of the HSE, the rent supplement scheme is operated on an agency basis on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.Explaining how the process functions, he said: “When someone presents themselves to us, the first thing we do is refer them to the housing officer at the relevant local authority.“A housing needs assessment is then carried out and their staff will call to the individual and assess their needs. Once the Local Authority establishes a housing need, they send a letter to us confirming this need.“We then undertake a means test and will generally establish that the person is receiving social welfare payments, is involved in a social employment scheme, or is working part-time, under 30 hours a week”.Mr. Murphy confirmed that it is up to the individual to then find a landlord who is willing to rent to them, within the limits of the scheme.Using the example of a lone parent with more than two children, he explained that accommodation must be found for €745 per calendar month, or less, under the limits set by the Department of Finance and the Department of Social and Family Affairs.“The means test will have established how much the tenant can contribute to the rent themselves. The minimum contribution that must be made is €24 per week, or €104 per calendar month. If accommodation was found for €745 per month, the tenants contribution of €104 would be subtracted, and he/she would receive a supplement of €641 per calendar month, or €148 per week. This is paid by the tenant directly to the landlord, we do not pay it.“Some social welfare payments are slightly higher than others, so any income above the base line rate must be contributed towards rent on top of the initial €24 per week”.The same system applies to a single individual, though they must find accomodation for a maximum of €446, and also contribute a minimum of €24 a week to the rent.Mr. Murphy emphasised that these payments were not coming out of the Health Budget: “We are tapping into the mainframe social welfare payments computer in Dublin. The funds are not coming out of the health budget in any shape or form. There is a misnomer that the HSE are throwing money away, but these are all Department of Social and Family Affairs cheques, and not from the HSE”.In relation to anti-social behaviour in rented accommodation, Mr. Murphy clarified that his department have no power to intervene, and advised: “The only people who can be complained to regarding anti-social behaviour is the Gardai”.He added that under the Data Protection Act, landlords names cannot be released, and that this had been tested as far as the Freedom of Information Act, where it was agreed that names could not be made public.“Councillors have also asked why we are not responsible for housing standards”, continued Mr. Murphy, “but this is not the role of the HSE. We only inspect properties to ensure they meet basic requirements but can’t tell people where to live. We may advise tenants if we feel they are not getting value for money, but ultimately, it is their decision.“Under the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008, the responsibility rests with the housing authority alone. The only inspection we make is to confirm that the tenant is living where they say they are, and that they continue to do so”.Finally, Mr. Murphy stated that any person who had been receiving rent allowance for over 18 months was supposed to move on to the Local Authority RAS scheme, but that the authorities were way behind because of a lack of resources.“They are currently only moving people onto their own housing scheme at a rate of two or three a week. They have the luxury of vetting tenants, checking the the houses and reaching an agreement with the landlords. We don’t have that luxury as those who present to us have a housing emergency.“We are obliged to provide rent supplements until the Local Authority take over, providing the tenant continues to meet the income and housing needs”.There are approximately 3,000 claimants being paid rent allowance at present, and Mr. Murphy concludes: “This supplementary rent allowance is a safety net for those who need financial assistance. Our staff cannot act recklessly and we ask for no more than we are allowed to ask for from tenants, and a tough means test is carried out. We are very conscious that taxpayers money is being spent. Councillors may feel the supplement is too high but rates were reduced by 8% in April, and I expect them to fall again in the next budget”. Email Twitter Advertisementcenter_img Linkedin Facebook Print Previous articleVacant sites in NAMA threatNext articleFinn Harps on Friday, Liverpool on Sunday adminlast_img read more

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