Homelessness due to relationship breakdown or domestic violence, 24/4/13

Homelessness due to relationship breakdown or domestic violence

Many of MLRC’s clients are homeless as a result of having to leave the family home that they jointly own, due to relationship breakdown or domestic violence.  The Census in 2011 revealed that of the 3,808 people in accommodation for the homeless, 16.7% were either separated or divorced, significantly higher than the general population for which the equivalent figure was 6%.

Regulation 22 of the Social Housing Regulations 2011, made pursuant to section 20 of the Housing Act 2009, provides that a household is ineligible for social housing support if it has “alternative accommodation that the household could reasonably be expected to use to meet its housing need” unless such accommodation is occupied by the applicant’s spouse or civil partner, from whom he or she is formally separated (either by Judicial Separation or Separation agreement) or divorced.

The 2011 Regulations are secondary legislation and have been made pursuant to primary legislation i.e. the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and must be read in light of that Act.  Section 20 of the 2009 Act defines a household as “a reference to two or more persons, who, in the opinion of the housing authority, have a reasonable requirement to live together”.  It follows that deemed alternative accommodation pursuant to Regulation 22 of the 2011 Regulations is not accommodation that both parties could be reasonably expected to use once the housing authority is of the view that the couple could not be reasonably expected to live together.

In practice, many people who are joint owners of property that they cannot access are not entitled to be placed on the housing list. The reason they may not be able to access the property can be e.g. because of relationship breakdown, where that breakdown has not been formalized by court order or separation agreement or where the couple were never married or civil partners or because of domestic violence.  In many cases the property is mortgaged and the bank will not allow the person to relinquish ownership and be released from the mortgage.

This results in a situation where a person cannot access local authority accommodation and cannot access rent supplement unless they satisfy the other criteria for rent supplement i.e. be resident in emergency accommodation for 183 days out of the previous 12 months OR be in rented accommodation for 183 days out of the previous 12 months where the applicant could pay the rent at the start of the tenancy but has since experienced a substantial change in circumstances.   In practice, it is only the former option that is open to people in this situation i.e. they must go into emergency accommodation for 183 days in order to access rent supplement.

While some local authorities, following advocacy or the threat of legal proceedings, will accept an undertaking from an applicant confirming that they will provide the local authority with a percentage of the net proceeds they receive from any sale of the property, not all local authorities do so and in any event, this requires the social housing applicant to challenge the rule themselves or arrange for an advocate or solicitor to assist.

On the 16th January 2013, the following parliamentary question was put to the Minister for Housing, Jan O Sullivan:

“if she will review the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 whereby separated persons who are the joint owners of properties are currently deemed ineligible for social housing support unless they are separated under an order of a court of competent jurisdiction or by a deed of separation in view of the fact that this regulation is too restrictive and makes it very difficult for certain separated persons with a housing need to access social housing supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

Minister O Sullivan replied as follows:

Regulation 22 (1) of the Social Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 provides that a household with alternative accommodation that would meet its housing need is ineligible for social housing support. Paragraph (2) of the Regulation clarifies that paragraph (1) does not operate to exclude from eligibility for social housing support an applicant who owns accommodation that is occupied by his or her spouse, from whom he or she is formally separated or divorced. Under the enactment, a deed of separation is sufficient to set aside this ineligibility ground and it is not necessary to await judicial separation or divorce to get a decision on social housing support in these cases. This provision is reasonable in most cases. I acknowledge, however, that situations relating to household members who have separated may exceptionally arise that may not easily be dealt with under the current Regulations. My Department is keeping the social housing assessment provisions under review and will consider what wider discretion might be given to housing authorities by way of Regulations to address the individually difficult and complex cases which may present to them.

MLRC calls on the Department to either review the Social Housing Regulations 2011 or clarify to local authorities that pursuant to the Housing Act 2009, deemed alternative accommodation pursuant to Regulation 22 of the 2011 Regulations is not accommodation that both parties could be reasonably expected to use once the housing authority is of the view that the couple could not be reasonably expected to live together.

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All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more.

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MLRC Calls on Government to ring fence funding, 11/4/13

MLRC calls on Government to ring fence funding for homeless services

The Dublin Homeless Network, which represents 23 charities, has warned the HSE that the cuts in funding since 2010, which average at 20%, have dramatically reduced much needed services at a time when there is an increased demand for such services.

In a survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office in 2011, it was revealed that there are 3,808 persons in homeless shelter accommodation or sleeping rough.

Member charities have taken action within new budgets to ensure that front line services have not been affected, however, a survey has found that if funding is cut further many members will have no scope to reconfigure services yet again within new reduced budgets.

Dublin City Council and HSE Dublin Mid Leinster jointly fund a reconfigured programme for homeless services in Dublin city, which they report has led to the improved provision of homeless services.  However, the Dublin Homeless Network has raised concerns that future cuts could result in some vital services for vulnerable homeless people closing altogether.

Mercy Law Resource Centre calls on the Government to ring fence funding for homeless services in order to avoid any further personal hardship for homeless people.

 

If you would like more information on the work of Mercy Law Resource Centre please see our website at www.mercylaw.ie.

 

Disclaimer

All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more

Update on Spent Convictions, 8/4/13

Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 –

An Update

Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) submitted its views on the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions) Bill 2012 on January 17th last. The Bill has since been considered by both the Seanad and the Dáil and is expected to return to the Dáil shortly for Order for Report, Report and Final Stages.

MLRC’s submission was acknowledged and endorsed by a number of Oireachtas members, including Senator Ivana Bacik, Deputy Mick Wallace, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan and Deputy Anne Ferris.  A number of amendments have been tabled by TDs Olivia Mitchell, Maureen O’Sullivan and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, which can be read here and include the following MLRC recommendations:

  1. In the vetting of persons who seek positions of employment relating to children or vulnerable persons is concerned, this Act should be read in conjunction with the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. In all other cases, the Gardaí (or any other body with access to such information) should only disclose convictions which are unspent. Information relating to cautions, investigations without charge, and dismissals under the Probation Act 1907 should not be disclosed in any circumstances, with the exception of those covered by the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012.
  2. The Minister will appoint the Data Protection Commissioner to cover complaints made in relation to enforcement and investigative powers.

A number of amendments have already been made to the original Bill, including:

  • Suspended sentences of up to 24 months, which are suspended in whole, are now covered by the legislation, provided that the suspension is not subsequently revoked;
  • The relevant period that must pass before a conviction can be considered ‘spent’ has been reduced from 5 years to 4 years in respect of sentences of 6 months or less and 6 years to 5 years where a sentence of 12 months or less has been imposed;
  • Where a person receives multiple convictions in one court sitting in respect of a single incident, those convictions are to be treated as one conviction;
  • The Bill is to be linked to the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012 in order to avoid replicating the definition of ‘relevant work’ in relation to working with children and vulnerable persons.

If you would like to read a full copy of our submission, please click here.

If you would like more information on the work of Mercy Law Resource Centre please see our website at www.mercylaw.ie.

 

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All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more

Meet our new staff, 5/4/13

MLRC is delighted to welcome two new personnel on board: Shauna Curran as a new part-time administrator taking the place of Rita Ann Burke.  We wish Rita Ann all the best in her new venture!

Also, welcome to Sinead Breathnach, apprentice solicitor, to our offices here at 25 Cork Street.  Sinead is an apprentice at Mason, Hayes and Curran, who have generously agreed that Sinead work with MLRC one day/week for the next 3 months.

Sinead is a graduate of the UL Law School where she has just  completed a masters in International Commercial Law.

MLRC acknowledges the generosity of MHC both in terms of their financial support of the Centre and the provision of much needed key staff.  We look forward to Sinead’s contribution to the work we are undertaking with the most marginalised in our society.

Case Study on Housing Needs Assessment, 3/4/13

Read another example of the successful work carried out by the Mercy Law Resource Centre.

Case study

One of our clients, referred to us by a women’s refuge, had left the family home due to domestic violence.  The local authority refused to place her on their housing list as she was a homeowner.  The refuge was unable to provide her with accommodation indefinitely and the client was faced with the prospect of emergency hostel accommodation.

MLRC made submissions to the local authority who eventually issued a Housing Needs Assessment letter which enabled our client to apply for rent supplement and rent privately.

If you would like more information on the work of Mercy Law Resource Centre please see our website at www.mercylaw.ie. 

Disclaimer

All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more.

Case study of a Befriender’s role, 2/4/2013

Since MLRC’s inception in 2009, we have provided advice and representation to 1,573 clients.  In 2010, 2011 & 2012, MLRC provided advice and representation to 270, 541 & 631 clients respectively.

Here is an example of our work in recent times.

Case study

One of our clients, a mother of two young children was homeless when she attended MLRC.  The Local Authority would not accept her on the Homeless List as her name was on a mortgage with her parents and she was perceived to have an interest in her parents’ property even though she had never contributed to the mortgage repayments.  The bank would not release here from the mortgage and she and her children could not live in the property with her parents as her father is a registered sex offender.

MLRC advocated with the Council on our client’s behalf who issued a Housing Needs Assessment letter confirming that she had a housing need.  This client is now in private rented accommodation with her two young children.  The client has been assigned a befriender who will provide non legal support.

If you would like more information on the work of Mercy Law Resource Centre please see our website at www.mercylaw.ie. 

Disclaimer

All information provided on this Blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or a legal contract between this Blog and any person or entity unless otherwise specified. Click here to read more.