Min­is­ters must join in tack­ling cri­sis

Irish Examiner - - Opinion -

DO the math: 25,000 in nurs­ing care, 65,000 homes va­cant for five years or more and 5,000 home­less fam­i­lies. There must be some al­go­rithm that can bring all those fig­ures to­gether to make so­cial and eco­nomic sense.

It will take more than a sim­ple ac­coun­tancy ex­er­cise to tackle the hous­ing cri­sis which is quickly turn­ing into a home­less cri­sis de­spite the Gov­ern­ment’s much-trum­peted Re­build­ing Ire­land pro­gramme. But look­ing at those fig­ures would be a start.

Hous­ing Min­is­ter Eoghan Mur­phy be­lieves many of those 65,000 prop­er­ties are va­cant be­cause their own­ers have moved into care and have no mo­ti­va­tion to rent out their home. The rea­son for that is the gov­ern­ment’s Fair Deal scheme un­der which a nurs­ing home res­i­dent must hand over 80% of any rental in­come they get in re­turn for their care. That, ob­vi­ously, puts most peo­ple off from en­ter­ing the rental mar­ket.

There is also levy of 7.5% of the value of the home and a fur­ther an­nual levy of 7.5% on any other as­sets, such as sav­ings and in­vest­ments, with the first €36,000 ex­empt. These levies have be­come – un­kindly – known as the ‘de­men­tia tax.’

The prob­lem is par­tic­u­larly acute for farm­ing fam­i­lies be­cause, un­der Fair Deal, the work­ing land is treated as an as­set and not a busi­ness or a means of liveli­hood.

Min­is­ter Mur­phy wants to ex­empt a pro­por­tion of rental in­come from the Fair Deal scheme to make more houses avail­able but his col­leage, Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris last week said the scheme fell un­der the remit of his depart­ment and he would not have it used in that way.

Min­is­ter Har­ris in­sisted the “over­rid­ing ob­jec­tive” of the planned shake-up of Fair Deal is to pro­vide more sup­ports for the el­derly and their fam­i­lies – not to tackle the home­less cri­sis. “If that has a knock-on ben­e­fit to pro­vid­ing ad­di­tional sup­port in meet­ing the hous­ing chal­lenge, well that’s an added bonus.” De­scrib­ing any se­ri­ous at­tempt to al­le­vi­ate home­less­ness as a ‘bonus’ re­veals Min­is­ter Har­ris to be – shall we say – not the most sen­si­tive of souls. It also shows him in­ca­pable of see­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween the home­less cri­sis and the so-called ‘bed-block­ers’ in public hospi­tals.

Ac­cord­ing to Eu­nice O’Raw, the HSE’s se­nior le­gal ad­viser, some fam­i­lies who want to avoid hav­ing their par­ent’s as­sets used to fund a nurs­ing-home place are leav­ing them in hos­pi­tal. The prob­lem is par­tic­u­larly acute for farm­ing fam­i­lies who face their whole en­ter­prise be­ing wiped out if an el­derly par­ent is in a nurs­ing home for an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

Con­sid­er­ing that two of our most se­nior min­is­ters are at such odds, it is lit­tle won­der that home­less cam­paigner Fr Peter McVerry has de­scribed the Gov­ern­ment of be­ing “ide­o­log­i­cally in­ca­pable” of ad­dress­ing the home­less cri­sis.

It is time for both min­is­ters to re­alise that they have shared in­ter­ests and come up with a so­lu­tion that makes Fair Deal more eq­ui­table and also al­le­vi­ates home­less­ness. If they can do that and solve the home­less cri­sis, no­body would be more de­lighted at be­ing proven wrong than Fr McVerry him­self.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.