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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 15 September, 2019

Housing Minister says his department has 'no evidence' of homeless families 'gaming the system'

Murphy was responding to comments from the outgoing chairperson of the Housing Agency.

Eoghan Murphy pictures today atfter a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG)
Eoghan Murphy pictures today atfter a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group (NECG)

HOUSING MINISTER EOGHAN Murphy has said that his department has no evidence that homeless families are “gaming the system” in order to jump up the social housing waiting list.

Murphy was speaking after the outgoing chairperson of the Housing Agency Conor Skehan told the Irish Times yesterday that homeless families may be presenting as homeless to jump up the list.

Skehan was referring to a policy introduced by the previous government in January 2015 under which 50% of all social housing allocations in Dublin were to go to homeless people.

Commenting on this measure, Skehan suggested that the prioritisation could be skewing homelessness figures.

He came in for strong criticism from opposition politicians and charity officials over the comments, who said there was “no evidence whatsoever” to back up the claims.

Speaking to reporters today, Minister Murphy said that his department also had no evidence of families engaging in this practice, but he stopped short of criticising Skehan.

“Conor Skehan is the chairperson of the Housing Agency. He advises on government policy how he thinks it might be impacting,” the minister said.

“I think it’s fair enough that he can do that in his role, and it’s not for me to criticise him for doing that – it’s important that we have different voices in this debate.

I’ve no evidence in my department of people presenting or trying to game the system.

The minister said that homelessness was a “very complex issue” and reiterated his previous commitments to build more homes and work to help people out of the situation.

Speaking to yesterday, Mike Allen, director of advocacy with homelessness charity Focus Ireland, said there was no evidence to back up Skehan’s claims.

“There is no evidence for this happening,” he said.

“And it’s not as though there is no evidence so it might be happening… If this was happening there would be evidence for it.

If you look at the graph of homelessness at that time, it doesn’t start to go up any faster. It continues to go up at the same speed.

Conor Skehan was due finish in his five year role as chair of the Housing Agency at the beginning of this year. The position has been publicly advertised but has yet to be filled.

Skehan has agreed to remain in the role until a successor is appointed by the minister.

Read: ‘No evidence whatsoever’ to claims by top housing official that homeless families are ‘gaming the system’

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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