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Housing benefit recipients face 'systemic discrimination', Irish human rights body says

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission launched it’s 2018 annual report today.

Image: Shutterstock/LU YAO

THERE IS “SYSTEMIC discrimination” in the Irish rental market against people in receipt of housing welfare payments, according to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

Chief commissioner Emily Logan made her comments in the IHREC annual report for 2018 which was published today. 

Problems surrounding housing and welfare payments will continue unless the issue is “comprehensively tackled”, Logan said. 

Since 2016, it has been illegal to discriminate against people in receipt of housing assistance payment (HAP), rent supplement or other social welfare payments. 

Despite this, housing assistance issues remain one of the most common reasons for people to contact the IHREC’s Your Rights information service. 

People in receipt of housing welfare payments can take discrimination cases before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). 

However, Logan said “enforcement of Irish discrimination law relies heavily on the individual complaints-led model”, and as a result it can pose challenges to those seeking to take a complaint.

For individuals who may be at risk of homelessness, and are focused on finding a place to live, it is unreasonable to expect that they can refocus their energies on pursuing a complaint. 

“It is apparent that there is systemic discrimination against people in receipt of housing social welfare payments,” Logan said. 

“Enforcement of the housing assistance ground before the WRC alone is not and cannot be the solution to this problem and further initiatives will need to be explored if this issue is to be comprehensively tackled.”

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Annual report

In general, the IHREC dealt with 1,711 queries from the public last year.

The top three public concerns related to the Equal Status Acts, focused on discrimination on the grounds of disability (33%) housing assistance (22%) and race (15%).

The top three public concerns under the Employment Equality Acts focused on discrimination in employment and job seeking on the grounds of disability (30%), gender (25%) and the race ground (16%).

Meanwhile, the Commission grants of legal advice or legal representation in new cases grew by 40% from the previous year seeing a range of cases taken up relating to discrimination and human rights issues.

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