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Homelessness figures: Government says it 'erroneously' overstated figures in previous months

A total of 3,646 children were recorded homeless in March.

Image: Volodymyr Baleha via Shutterstock

LATEST FIGURES SHOW there were 126 fewer people accessing emergency accommodation in March than the month previous, but the government says it ‘erroneously’ overstated previous figures.

The government has published its latest report for March, with figures for homeless adults at 6,035 and the number of homeless children at 3,646, with a total number of 1,720 families in emergency accommodation.

The latest figures show that there were 126 fewer people accessing emergency accommodation in March than February. This is made up of 17 adults, 19 families and 109 dependents.

In February, there were 6,052 adults recorded homeless and 3,755 homeless children.

sdsd Source: Department of Housing

dgsdf Source: Department of Housing

Family presentations have dropped by almost 50% in the Dublin region from 261 in February to 135 in March.

However, a categorisation error has been identified, which the government says has “overstated the total number of people who are in emergency accommodation in the State”.

Commenting on the error, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said: “A number of local authorities have erroneously categorised individuals and families living in local authority owned or leased housing stock, including some instances of people renting in the private sector but in receipt of social housing supports, as being in emergency accommodation.”

Murphy said that, to date, at least 600 individuals have been identified as having been categorised as homeless and in emergency accommodation when they are not. He added that “some but not all of these individuals have been removed from the total numbers”.

“It is quite clear that the current reporting model needs to be reformed as such errors undermine our ability to properly understand the extent and nature of the problem, as well as inform policy decisions around solutions,” Murphy said.

In a statement today, Peter McVerry Trust, the national housing and homelessness charity, welcomed the small decrease in the number of people accessing emergency accommodation.

“We welcome this small but important decrease in the numbers recorded as accessing homeless services in March. The first two months of the year saw a rapid rise in numbers accessing homeless accommodation, and we are very glad to see a drop off in March,” Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said.

Delay in figures

Echoing his comments this afternoon, Murphy said last Friday that the government needs a better way of collating and reporting Ireland’s homeless figures, as there was a “slight delay” on the release of this month’s.

The numbers for each month are generally reported in and around the 27th of each month.

The minister explained that his department collects the numbers from all the local authorities around the country – but it appears some are better than others in terms of sending their reports to central government. It’s understood that some local authorities have also sent on inaccurate figures in the past, which the department has had to verify and send back, causing undue delays.

“We have at the moment what is a slight delay because some of the local authorities haven’t filed their returns yet – so until I have the numbers I can’t publish them. But that is why we need a more accurate and better structure and form of reporting for our homeless numbers.

Every month they come on a different day and a different time and I know we want to have some consistency so that people can see what is happening – but more importantly so we can understand why it is happening.

“That piece of work is being undertaken at the moment. When it is completed we will be making an announcement about the recommendations we receive about reporting structures,” Murphy said.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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