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Posts tagged ‘Focus Ireland’

Help tackle Ireland’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis.

By Focus Ireland

We have called on the Government to invest €500 Million in Budget 2015 to help deliver over 3,000 homes to help tackle Ireland’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis.

We made the call in our Pre-Budget submission as we published new figures which show 45 families became homeless in Dublin alone in September.

Shockingly over 350 families have become homeless so far this year in Dublin – which means at least 10 children have lost their family home every week in 2014.

Our Pre-Budget Submission calls for the Government to immediately raise rent supplement rates on Budget day to stop the rise in the number of families losing their homes as they can’t afford to pay the rent.

Our Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen said: “The simple fact is that Government policy on rent supplement is one of the leading causes of the sharp rise of family homelessness in Ireland. The Government could help many families hold on to their homes with a stroke of a pen on Budget Day next week. Before the local elections earlier this year the Government accepted that homelessness was at a crisis point but we have yet to see the urgent crisis response that is needed. The rent supplement system provides homes for many people but it is also causing some to lose their homes.

He added: “It is not credible for the Government to accept the situation is at ‘crisis point’ but yet not change its policy on this key trigger of homelessness.”

Changes to petrol prices or VAT are usually made with immediate effect on Budget Day so surely a move to keep families in their homes and stop them becoming homeless can be done in a similar way.

The government has previously warned that a rise in rent supplement would make the housing situation worse by driving up market rents. However, the State could bring in some form of short-term rent regulation to prevent this from happening.

Rent regulation would also provide greater security for families and people living in private rented accommodation.

Our Pre-Budget Submission can be read here: http://bit.ly/1pi4Y4i

We have called on the Government to invest €500 Million in Budget 2015 to help deliver over 3,000 homes to help tackle Ireland’s growing homeless and affordable housing crisis.

We made the call in our Pre-Budget submission as we published new figures which show 45 families became homeless in Dublin alone in September. 

Shockingly over 350 families have become homeless so far this year in Dublin – which means at least 10 children have lost their family home every week in 2014.

Our Pre-Budget Submission calls for the Government to immediately raise rent supplement rates on Budget day to stop the rise in the number of families losing their homes as they can’t afford to pay the rent.  

Our Director of Advocacy, Mike Allen said: “The simple fact is that Government policy on rent supplement is one of the leading causes of the sharp rise of family homelessness in Ireland. The Government could help many families hold on to their homes with a stroke of a pen on Budget Day next week. Before the local elections earlier this year the Government accepted that homelessness was at a crisis point but we have yet to see the urgent crisis response that is needed.  The rent supplement system provides homes for many people but it is also causing some to lose their homes.

He added: “It is not credible for the Government to accept the situation is at 'crisis point' but yet not change its policy on this key trigger of homelessness.”

Changes to petrol prices or VAT are usually made with immediate effect on Budget Day so surely a move to keep families in their homes and stop them becoming homeless can be done in a similar way.

The government has previously warned that a rise in rent supplement would make the housing situation worse by driving up market rents. However, the State could bring in some form of short-term rent regulation to prevent this from happening.

Rent regulation would also provide greater security for families and people living in private rented accommodation.  

Our Pre-Budget Submission can be read here: http://bit.ly/1pi4Y4i
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éirígí added 3 new photos.

Few photos from Clanbrassil Street, Dublin. Irish Water moved in early this morning with a large group of contractors (including the infamous ‘Brian’ who had p

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(Courtesy of one boycotter) ~

“Hi I sent back my form [filled in – admin] because I didnt understand now I regret it is there anythin I can do now?”

Mary-Lou McDonald says ” SF does not want to dismantle ‪#‎IrishWater‬ “‘ #Irishwater is a billing service nothing more nothing less whats to keep . why would you pay the costs to keep a billing services for over 4 million people and not use it ?? who will pay the costs of keeping a billing service running thats not sending out bills ? http://www.newstalk.com/MaryLou-McDonald-says-SF-does-not-w…

The deputy leader of Sinn Fein Mary-Lou McDonald has said her party is not opposed to Irish Water and accepts that the utility ‘exists’. But Ms McDonald has…
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Focus Ireland update

 

Dear Machholz,

 

Do you remember that earlier this year the Constitutional Convention voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the Constitution should be amended to include a right to a home? It was an important recognition for all the families in negative equity, mortgage debt, rent arrears or forced into homelessness.

 

Well the Government seems to have forgotten. We think it’s time to remind them and would like your help to do so.

 

When the Government set up the Constitutional Convention and invited representative Irish citizens to discuss the future of the Irish Constitution, they promised they would respond to whatever recommendations the Convention made within four months .

 

It was back in February that the Convention invited Focus Ireland and others along to present our views on whether Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – which include the right to a home – should be included in the Constitution. The arguments we put forward convinced the Convention. They voted overwhelmingly in favour of such rights being in the Constitution – which would require a referendum to be achieved.

 

The Government’s own deadline came and went at the end of July with nothing but silence, and now it seems the Government is on holiday.

 

We think that this is just too important an issue to be forgotten and are asking people who support our work to send an e-mail to the Taoiseach and Tainiste reminding them of the Convention’s recommendation, their own promise to the Convention and that the right to a home is more important to Irish people now than it has ever been.

 

We have drafted a basic letter for you, which you can send as it is or amend to reflect your own priorities and experience. You can send that letter from here .

 
Yours sincerel y,

 

Mike Allen
Director of Advocacy
Focus Ireland

 

p.s. we thank you for taking part in our campaigns and letting us contact you about them as they develop and as new campaigns start. If you would like to receive other information from Focus Ireland about our services, volunteering opportunities or fundraising events please click here  to let us know the areas you would like us to contact you on.

 

Homelessness should be a local election issue :

Focus Ireland - Creating homes together


Dear Machholz,

I am writing to you to ask you to participate in Focus Ireland’s current campaign – to make housing and homelessness an issue in the local election campaign.

Frist I want to thank you for participating in previous Focus Ireland campaigns, and agreeing to be contacted on new campaign issues. We have had some notable successes – on the Constitutional Convention recommending a Right to Housing, on Aftercare and on a new target to end long-term homelessness.

Now we need your support again as Ireland is facing a worsening housing and homeless problem and Focus Ireland believes it is vital these issues are put firmly on the agenda for the local elections. You can participate in the campaign here .

Focus Ireland is currently seeing a lot more people and families becoming homeless – and remaining trapped in this situation – despite all our efforts to support them to s ecure a home.  This is due to the fact that there is a severe shortage of housing options available for them.

Many of the families and people coming to our services have never had any experience of homeless and never imagined that it could happen to them.

With rising instances of home repossession, reduced stock in the private rental market, a lack of social housing options and increasing rent, those in vulnerable housing situations are more at risk than ever.

In the face of this, homeless services have seen cuts in funding every year. We are asking people who care about homelessness to vote for candidates who will put a stop to these cuts, and refuse to vote for local budgets that include further cut backs.

But how will you know which way candidates will vote on this issue? We are asking everyone who cares about homelessness to contact all the candidates to ask them to sign a pledge that they will protect the homeless budget.  The Focus Ireland pledge seeks to ensure there are adequate services for people who are homeless until we see a reduction in the numbers of people who are homeless.

Please now take two minutes to play your part to support the most vulnerable in our society.

You can send a pre-written letter to candidates in your area by clicking here or by going to http://www.focusireland.ie/get-involved/take-action

Thanking you in advance,

 

Yours sincerely

Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy

Focus Ireland: statutory right to an aftercare plan

Dear Machholz,

I wanted to let you know that last Tuesday the Cabinet agreed to change the law so that a young person who grows up in State care will have a statutory right to an aftercare plan. This is a major step forward for these young people and is a direct result of the support you have given to the Focus Ireland campaign on this issue over many years.

The change in the law will be introduced in the next few months by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald. Of course there will be future battles about adequate resources to fulfill these aftercare plans, but this does not diminish the significance of this Cabinet decision. You can read our full statement here.

As this important step forward brings us towards the end of 2013, I wanted to thank you for your great support of all recent campaigns  by Focus Ireland across a range of key issues including aftercare, housing provision and our right to a home campaign. I also wanted to let you know about Focus Ireland’s annual conference, “Working to End Homelessness: New Solutions to Finding Homes”, which is taking place on Wednesday 27th of November from 9.00am to 5.00pm in the Vavasour Suite of the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. We are delighted that the conference will be opened by Ms. Jan O’Sullivan T.D., Minister for Housing and Planning, who has set a new deadline to end long-term homelessness by the end of 2016.

For this conference, Focus Ireland is bringing together a range of leading researchers and practitioners to help us learn from international experience on housing supply and policy. If you would like to attend in a professional capacity, you can book your place now for only €35 by entering your details here. The complete agenda can be viewed here.

We have also reserved ten places at no charge for those who have assisted us in our campaigns, and are not employed by organisations which would be able to pay the attendance. If you fall into this category and are interested in attending we would be delighted to see you at the conference, please reply to this e-mail expressing your interest by lunchtime on Tuesday 19th . If there are more than ten applications we will select from them on Tuesday afternoon.

Kind regards,

Mike Allen

Director of Advocacy

 

Focus Ireland update on Ireland’s homeless

Dear Machholz,

We wrote to you last year about the crazy situation where dozens of young people who have experienced homelessness are trapped in emergency homeless accommodation because their income is too low for them to afford to move on into independent living.

When the welfare rates to young people were halved in 2009, young people who had grown up in care were protected, recognising that they would need a full payment if they were to provide a home for themselves. However young people who become homeless after they reach 18, but were never in care, receive no such protection.

After a period in emergency accomodation, such young people are ready to move on with their lives, possibly with tenancy support services – but even if they can find a private flat and get rent supplement they cannot afford to take it up because after their rent contribution they would be left with only €70 to €100 a week to live on.

As a result they remain stuck in Emergency Accomm odation whose facilities they no longer need and which is more expensive than supporting them to find and maintain a home. . It is hard to get on with your life – take up education or apply for a job – when your address is an emergency homeless hostel. At present the only way out is to wait until they turn 25!Homeless1

Last year, Focus Ireland supporters sent over 2,000 e-mails to their TDs and Senators asking for action on this situation. This resulted in dozens of Dail questions and a very positive response by the Minister Joan Burton. But since then … nothing. There has been no change at all in the position of these young people.

305To help push this issue forward, Focus Ireland, in collaboration with other homeless organisations around the country, is holding a briefing session for TDs and Senators in the Dail on the 17th April. At thie briefing we will outline the problem and put forward a solution which will use the Youth Guarantee to assist these young people mo ve out of Emergency Homeless Accommodation and on into training, education, employment – and a sustainable home.

We are writing to you now to ask you to send a reminder to your local TD/Senators to attend the briefing and put their political weight behind finding a solution to this problem. There is an easy-to-use prepared letter here.

With thanks for your support.

Yours sincerely

Mike Allen Director of Advocacy Focus Ireland

Focus Ireland’s aftercare services and campaign.

Dear Machholz,

I am writing to bring you some good news about progress in our campaign to win a legal right to aftercare for young people who grew up in state care. Your support for this campaign has been important over the last couple of years and I thought you would like to know of the progress made.

As you will have heard and read, the report on 196 children and young people who died while in State care was published two weeks ago. The commentary on this distressing report has been wide-ranging and serious, and among all that has been said you may well have missed an important and welcome new commitment by Minister Fitzgerald.

In her speech at the report launch, Minister Fitzgerald said: ”

All children in care should be entitled to an a ssessment of their needs before they are 18 and all children in care should be entitled to the supports that they need. I believe the law needs to be strengthened in this regard… and with advice from the Attorney General, I will be proposing legislative change later this year, in the bill to establish the Child and Family Support Agency.”

Discussions with the Minister’s staff indicate that the intention is to create two legal rights in the legislation. First, that there will be a legal right to a formal assessment of what support needs a young person in care will have as they move into adulthood. Second, support needs have been identified in this assessment must actually delivered in aftercare provision

This is a different approach than the straightforward change from ‘may provide aftercare’ to ‘shall provide aftercare’ which we proposed. However, depending upon the final wording of the legislation, this has the pot ential to provide a rigorous assurance to vulnerable young people.

Focus Ireland has welcomed the Minister’s announcement and the timeframe for it. We will closely monitor the wording of the proposed legislation to ensure it provides the assurances we have campaigned so long to achieve.

You may be interested in reading an article in today’s Irish Times which highlights Focus Ireland’s aftercare services and campaign.

You may be interested in supporting another issue we are currently campaigning on – the need to change the welfare rules which can trap young homeless people in emergency  accommodation. You can read more about that campaign here:

In the meantime I want to thank you for your support for the aftercare campaign, and we will keep you informed as it moves to what may be it s final stages.

Yours sincerely,

Mike Allen

Director of Advocacy

Focus Ireland up-date

Dear Machholz,

We have good news, and Focus Ireland supporters played a part in achieving it. The Government has just appointed a new Minister for Housing, who will have a seat at the Cabinet table and whose first message is that ‘tacking homelessness will be her main priority.’

Breaking news is reporting that “newly-appointed super junior minister Jan O’Sullivan has pledged to have her voice heard in Cabinet despite not having the right to vote. The Labour TD for Limerick City, who was appointed to the position vacated last month by rebel Willie Penrose, dismissed the idea that she will have little power to influence government policy.

“Being at the table gives me more opportunity to have my voice there when decisions are being made,” said Ms O’Sullivan. As the so-called “Super Junior”, Ms O’Sullivan will sit at the Cabinet table but will not have the right t o vote. “I don’t have voting rights but I certainly will be involved in all decisions in Cabinet,” she said.

She said tackling homelessness will be her main priority.

“I don’t think anybody should be in a position where they don’t have a home of their own,” she said.

Ms O’Sullivan added that regeneration and supporting homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages were other areas she would focus on.”

The appointment follows on from a strong Focus Ireland campaign to ensure that the replacement Housing minister continues to hold the super junior seat at cabinet. Almost 3,000 e-mails were sent to TDs and Senators urging the appointment. In a second phase of the campaign hundreds of personal e-mails went to Tainiste Eamon Gilmore when his reply to the first e-mail was found to be disappointing and vague.

While this is good news and Focus Ireland looks forward to working with  Deputy O’Sullivan in her new role, there will be a lot of hard work along the way to acheive the sort of change that is required to end long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough by the end of 2013. We want to thank you for your support for this campaign and for the range of Focus Ireland campaigns over the year. May I also wish you a good Christmas and a happy new year.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Mike Allen

Director of Advocacy

Focus Ireland up-date

 

Dear Machholz,
I am writing to you to bring you up to date with a few Focus Ireland campaigns which may interest you.
Aftercare
One of our longest running campaigns has concerned ensuring that young people who are in state care continue to receive ‘aftercare’ when they reach 18. We have campaign for a legal right to aftercare for many years. We are further promoting this campaign through a public meeting at 2.00pm tomorrow (Wednesday 16th November) in Buswells Hotel. Speakers will include Geoffrey Shannon, recently elected TD Patrick Nulty and a Focus Ireland aftercare worker. You can read more about the event here , and please come along if you can.
We are continuing to run our e-mail campaign to Minister Francis Fitzgerald to keep this issue on her priority list. If you have not already taken part you can join in here .
Mortgage Arrears
Due to mortgage arrears and personal debet, tens of thousands of families are at risk of losing their family home. In response to this Focus Ireland joined with a number of other organisations (including FLAC, Threshold, New Beginnings and SVP) and individuals to set out 9 principles that should inform Government policy on this issue. One of the principals is an urgent call for comprehensive personal debt legislation which would set up a debt resolution agency. You can read more about the 9 principles here , and e-mail y our TD about this issue here .
Awareness Campaign
Focus Ireland has just launched a new awareness campaign on the theme ‘Focus on Facts’. You can look at the images from the campaign and some of the ideas behind it here .

If you want to subscribe to the Focus Ireland Advoacy News here
 
Mike Allen
Director of Advocacy

Focus Ireland

Dear Machholz,

I want to bring you up to date with our campaign to ensure that children who are in state care have a legal right to aftercare when they reach 18 years of age.

You will remember that we were lobbying hard under the last Government to get a legal right to aftercare included in the Childcare Amendment Bill. At the beginning of July, the new Government voted through the Childcare Amendment Bill – but without the change that would have made aftercare a legal right. Given the way that both Fine Gael and Labour supported this campaign while in opposition, this is very disappointing.

On the positive side the new Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, made a commitment to the Dáil and Seanad that she would consider whether legislation to guarantee the right to aftercare is necessary. It is depressing to see her repeat the same tired words of former Minister Barry Andrews that la ws that say the HSE ‘may’ provide aftercare actually mean that they ‘shall’. But Minister Fitzgerald’s progessive action in bringing forward legislation in many other areas of child protection must give us hope that this area will not be neglected. She promised to consider this issue in the context of legislation establishing her own Department and we will be working to ensure the case is strongly put to her.

If you want to read more about the Aftercare issue click here and follow the link at the end of the text, or to go straight to our analysis of the Oireacthas debate and its implications here.

In co-operation with ‘Action on Aftercare’, we are now looking at the wider range of legislation on this issue which exists in Northern Ireland and oth er countries, with a view to convincing Minister Fitzgerald that a broader range of legislation is required to ensure provision of effective aftercare to all who need it. In the meantime, it would be a good idea to let Minister Fitzgerald know that we are disappointed that the incoming Government did not live up to its promises in opposition. You can mail her here.

Finally, if you want to keep up with the broad range of Focus Ireland‘s advocacy work on homelessness and social housing, please subscribe to our new ‘Advocacy Update’ e-zine here.

Mike Allen

Director of Advocacy, Development, Communications and Research

Links: http://takeaction.focusireland.ie/takeaction?i=12761764859163801

Link 2: http://focusireland.us2.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=f833aefd56e8a0fc1acc1ec85&id=7ab4747834

Focus Ireland update

Dear Machholz,
Your work over the last few months has paid off – the new Programme for Government includes a range of commitments on ending homelessness, just as we so strongly demanded.

The overall statement we were seeking is there on page 45: “We are committed to ending long term homelessness and the need to sleep rough. ” While this does not contain the time commitment we were seeking, there is a commitment to “review and update the existing Homeless Strategy”. Focus Ireland will of course be seeking an input into this review and will be seeking a new time commitment from the new Minister, when s/he is appointed later this week.
The Programme also states that this review of strategy will include “a specific focus on youth homelessness”. This takes up a key demand from our seminar last week on the need to update and renew our commitments on Youth Homelessness.
The Programme also includes a commitment to introduce a ‘housing first’ approach so that we can “offer homeless people suitable, long term housing in the first instance and radically reduce the use of hostel accommodation and the associated costs for the Exchequer.”
Finally the Progamme takes up the theme of Focus Ireland’s recently launched new 5 year strategy “Holding on to a place you can call home” by giving greater prominence to prevention, committing to “aggressively target the root causes of homelessness.” And promises “a dedicated body to coordinate policy across Government.”
All this is good, and is a great testament to Focus Ireland supporters who raised these issue s with candidates and political leaders from right across the country. However, we know that having these commitments written down is only the start. The outgoing Government had some of these aspirations too, but was unable to achieve them. There is no specific mention of the right to aftercare, but both the commitment on youth homelessness and the promise to implement the Ryan Report, along with the supportive Dail speeches by Fine Gael and Labour TDs earlier this year will give us strong ground for pushing this issue forward.
So while celebrating these commitments, we are starting to think about what needs to happen to ensure they become a reality. Given the other challenges facing the country, that will not be easy. For that next stage of the road we will need your support as much as we needed it to arrive here. As that develops we will be in touch again, but in the meantime we just want to extend our thanks for your support.

Yours sincerely
M ike Allen
Director of Advocacy, Focus Ireland

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