MLRC supports call for child benefit for over 18s in second level education, 30/7/13

Child benefit is a payment made to the parents of children under 16 or children under 18 if they are attending full-time education, participating in Youthreach training, or are disabled. The payment is not dependent on the financial status of the family.

Child benefit payments were discontinued for children over the age of 18 in January 2010. This cessation applies even to those in full-time education. On 23 July 2013, the Society of St Vincent de Paul issued a statement requesting Ministers to reinstate the payment for over 18s in second level education. The Society notes that many children are still attending school at the age of 18. Children may have been held back due to educational, familial or health reasons, or they may simply have started school late. Regardless, for low income families the Government’s refusal to extend child benefit to those over 18 creates a significant barrier to educational attainment.

St Vincent de Paul issued letters of concern to the Ministers of Social Protection and Education, in which the society stressed the importance of such payments for low income families or families living on the poverty line. They noted that: “the result of this cut will be lower rates of school completion and educational progression among disadvantaged children and young people, and increased levels of stress and hardship for families”.

With youth unemployment remaining a serious social concern, access to education and equality of access is more important than ever. An extension of the child benefit scheme will go some way towards ensuring children remain in school, regardless of their economic situation.

 

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.

Advertisements

MLRC supports Threshold’s call for Deposit Protection Scheme, 24/7/13

On Monday 22 July, the national housing charity, Threshold, released details of a report into the occurrence of illegal deposit retention by landlords in Ireland.

Deposits typically consist of one month’s rent and should be returned to the tenant once their tenancy ends. There are limited circumstances in which a deposit may lawfully be retained. These include instances where the tenant is in rent arrears or behind in payment of utility bills. The most frequently cited reason for the retention of a deposit, however, is due to damage to the property above normal wear and tear.

A study carried out by the Galway branch of the housing charity estimates that over €350,000 in tenants’ deposits are retained each year in Connaught. This figure is based on the experiences of individuals who approach Threshold in relation to deposit retention and, as such, the actual figure may be much higher.

The Threshold press release detailing the research notes that the charity’s intervention “can and does help secure the return of all or part of a tenant’s deposit in many cases, but in some it will be necessary to make a complaint to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB)”.

The PRTB was established under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and the board exercises quasi-judicial powers to deal with tenant and landlord disputes in the place of the courts. Threshold estimates that 60% of the cases that come before the PRTB are related to deposit retention. The charity’s experience with clients has shown that many landlords retain deposits regardless of the state of the property, while others allege damage which is never proven. The introduction of a deposit protection scheme would go some way towards ensuring tenants’ money is returned to them.

Such schemes are already in place in a number of other jurisdictions, most notably the UK and New Zealand. The most likely form a deposit scheme would take in Ireland would be a custodial scheme whereby tenants’ deposits are pooled together and earn interest which in turn pays for the procedural costs of the scheme. This custodial format was the kind recommended by Indecon in an extensive assessment carried out in 2012 on the feasibility of a deposit retention scheme.

Diarmaid O’Sullivan, Services Manager for Threshold in Galway, has reiterated the immediate need for the introduction of a scheme, pointing out that “many tenants… receive deposits from their Community Welfare Officers and are expected to bring this deposit with them when they move tenancy”. When landlords illegally withhold this deposit they are putting both the tenant and the State at a disadvantage.

For further reading, see:

Indecon’s feasibility assessment http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Housing/FileDownLoad,31535,en.pdf

Threshold’s press release https://www.facebook.com/notes/dhr-communications/introduction-of-a-deposit-protection-scheme-critical-threshold/10151730962989173

Threshold’s “10 tips for getting your deposit back” http://www.threshold.ie/download/pdf/10_tips_for_getting_your_deposit_back.pdf

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.

MLRC supports further reform to rent supplement, 23/7/13

Local authorities look set to assume further responsibility in the realm of housing support if Government plans for reform of the rent supplement system proceed.

On Friday the 19th July it was announced that local authorities will take over some of the work of the Department of Social Protection, specifically in relation to rent supplement provision.

If proposals which are due to come before the Oireachtas shortly are implemented, the rent supplement will be replaced by the “Housing Assistance Payment”, which is intended to allow those who are employed to continue receiving some form of rent support. Under the present scheme, rent supplement is discontinued once a tenant is employed for 30 hours a week. The new system would instead permit the receipt of assistance at a reduced level.

The impetus for this change stems from ongoing concerns that the current rent supplement scheme acts as a poverty trap, with people intentionally shirking employment for fear of losing their assistance. This has led to the rent supplement, which was always intended to provide temporary assistance to those eligible, becoming a long-term housing support service. Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, welcomed the prospect of the Housing Assistance Payment, saying that “it will remove one of the primary disincentives for people in receipt of rent supplements to return to work”.

It is thought that transferring the administration of rent assistance to local authorities will lead to a more streamlined system. Local authorities will make the payments directly to the landlords and it is hoped that the authorities’ involvement will also improve the calibre of housing on offer. Housing organisation Threshold has welcomed this initiative, with director Bob Jordan stating that the policy of payment directly to the landlord “gives tenants more security and choice, while also providing greater peace of mind for landlords”.

Trial runs of the Housing Assistance Payment will be conducted early next year, with a project implementation group currently assessing what the initial parameters of the test phase should be. It is hoped that detailed legislative provisions will be brought before the Dáil this autumn.

For further reading, see: < http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2013/07/government-gives-green-light-to-new-housing-assistance-payment/?cat=102>

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.

MLRC successful outcome of housing issue, 11/7/13

Mercy Law Resource Centre successfully settled a case with a local authority on behalf of a client with three children and who found herself homeless and living in emergency accommodation.  Our client had been on the housing list for over 9 years and had signed a tenancy agreement with a voluntary housing agency not knowing the monthly rental rate which our client was not able to afford.  Our client then signed a surrender to the tenancy agreement when she realised that she could not afford the monthly rent without being aware of the implications of doing so.  Our client has poor English and did not understand the ramifications of same.

Our client was removed from the housing list and was advised that she would have to make a new application at the end of 2013 but she would lose all of the points that she had accumulated on the housing list for the last 9 years.  Our client was living in emergency accommodation with her three children and could not access private rented accommodation as she was not on any housing list.

We made representations to the local authority on her behalf in an effort to resolve the matter but it was necessary for us to issue Judicial review proceedings in the High Court as the local authority did not engage in negotiations with the Centre.  Having successfully sought leave in the High Court, the matter settled with the local authority at a very early stage of the proceedings and our client was offered a property by the local authority which she accepted.  Our client is now settled into her new property with her three children.

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.

MLRC acknowledges €25,000 donation from MHC, 05/07/13

MLRC wishes to acknowledge and thank Mason Hayes & Curran for their kind donation of €25,000.  MHC has helped fund our centre for the last three years. As well as this much needed funding MHC continues to provide us with wonderful trainee solicitors, who have assisted us with legal research, policy work and general client/clinic work.  We are delighted that Mason, Hayes & Curran consider us a worthy cause to support our valuable work with the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Click here to visit the MHC website.

MLRC is entirely dependent on donations and we really do appreciate our funders and donors. Click here if you would like to make a donation to MLRC.

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.

MLRC has signed up to the One Percent Difference Campaign, 1/7/13

Mercy Law Resource Centre has already signed up to the One Percent Difference Campaign, joining some 530 other charities!

The One Percent Difference Campaign was launched in Dublin last month with the view to increasing philanthropic interest in Ireland.  Along with individuals, businesses are also encouraged to get involved in the campaign. The One Percent Difference Campaign calls on everyone to give 1% of their income, whether small or large, to help a worthy cause close to their heart.

MLRC gives free legal aid to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. To donate online to MLRC please click here.

Visit the One Percent Difference Website, where there is a handy gauge to figure out what 1% of your income is and to learn more about this campaign.

Or sign your charity up to the One Percent Difference Campaign.

Or like the One Percent Difference Campaign on Facebook.

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.