'No evidence that homeless game the system', says Housing Minister
There is no evidence of people declaring themselves homeless in a bid to "game the system", Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said.
However, Mr Murphy has refused to criticise housing tsar Conor Skehan for claiming that families living in emergency B&B or hotel accommodation may be self-declaring themselves as homeless to jump the housing waiting list.
Mr Skehan, outgoing chair of the Housing Agency, provoked an outcry from homeless charities with the suggestion that some families may be "gaming the system" as a result of a now-defunct rule that Dublin local authorities should provide up to 50pc of all new social housing allocations to homeless individuals and families.
But when asked about the comments, Mr Murphy said it was "fair enough" for Mr Skehan to offer his analysis on the problems facing the sector.
However, he added: "I've no evidence in my department of people presenting or trying to 'game the system'."
The minister said he believed Mr Skehan was trying to point out "an unintended consequence of previous government policy".
The 50pc rule, which was introduced in January 2015, has since been rescinded but some local authorities continue to prioritise homeless accommodation.
In an interview in the Irish Times this week, Mr Skehan said: "We unwittingly created a problem by prioritising self-declared homelessness above all other types of housing need, which created a distortion in the waiting list system and may have encouraged people to game the system."
Mr Murphy said the chair of the Housing Agency is in a position to advise on government policy and "how it might be impacting".
"I think it's fair enough that he can do that. It's his role. It's not for me to criticise him for doing that. It's important that we have different voices in this debate," Mr Murphy said.
"My commitment is to make sure that we build as many homes as possible, to make sure that we get these people who are in very difficult circumstances, individuals and families, into homes and secure tenancies as quickly as possible."
Mr Murphy added that homelessness is a "very complex issue".
"People find themselves in a very difficult situation in their lives through no fault of their own. They come to local authorities and they come to our emergency response services looking for help," he said.
"We do a detailed assessment. We help them into temporary accommodation but ideally help them into a permanent solution immediately."