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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019
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Council told to pay Traveller family €20,000 after refusing them access to housing list

The council had deemed the family to not be ‘normally resident’ as they were illegally living in a caravan on private property.

Screenshot 2018-05-10 at 22.54.28 File photo Source: William Murphy

A TRAVELLER FAMILY has been awarded €20,000 at the Workplace Relations Commission after being denied access to a local authority housing list.

The family-of-five in question had been living in a caravan by a roadside at the time they made the application to the authority in June 2016.

At that time the family claimed it had been normally resident in the county in question for two years, had family connections in the area, and were effectively homeless, living by the side of a road without basic facilities.

When their initial application to be put on the list was rejected, the family (a husband, wife, and three children) appealed that decision.

In rejecting that appeal, the county council in question said the family could not be deemed normally resident as they were living illegally on private property.

The council further stated that it had established, via the gardaí, that the family had in fact relocated to a neighbouring local authority, and that none of the family members were in full-time education within the jurisdiction of the refusing authority.

Eligibility

In considering the case, Workplace Relations Commission adjudicating officer Shay Henry said that in determining that the family was not normally resident, the council had applied a more stringent threshold of eligibility than it would normally apply to a family in distressed circumstances.

He further stated that local authorities have a duty of care to the vulnerable in society, such as those who have declared themselves to be homeless.

In his decision, Henry noted that the county council was in error in applying a legal definition of ‘normally resident’, as opposed to the common interpretation of the phrase.

“Furthermore, it does not appear that the Council routinely assesses the lawfulness of the current residence of all applicants for social housing,” he said in his decision.

In doing so, the local authority discriminated against the family as the criteria relied upon were skewed towards ‘settled’ dwellers, with the Traveller nomadic lifestyle putting the family at a distinct disadvantage in their application.

In making his decision, Henry ‘noted’ that the family had since secured accommodation via a neighbouring local authority.

He stated that the authority must re-visit its criteria for social housing assessment, and remove the need to satisfy a legal definition of being normally resident.

He further suggested that an appropriate amount of redress would be €4,000 for each family member, €20,000 in total, which he instructed the county council to pay to the family.

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