Focus Ireland provides a range of services to people for whom access to adequate rent supplement is a crucial determinant in either avoiding homelessness or exiting from it. Focus Ireland has advocated over a number of years for an increase in the payment to meet market rents.
Following a review of the scheme, the Department of Social Protection made a decision not to increase rent supplement rates. Focus Ireland sought legal advice as to whether the Department was acting outside its legal remit in failing to give adequate priority to the objectives of the rent supplement scheme as set down in legislation
PILA connected Focus Ireland with Arthur Cox solicitors who prepared written advices on the powers of the Department for Social Protection under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005.
The advice found that the Act did not prevent the Department from having regard to economic considerations when deciding whether to increase rent limits and that any challenge to this decision would have limited chance of success. The advice did, however, suggest alternative actions that could be taken to inform the next steps in the campaign.
In June 2016, it was announced that rent supplement and the housing assistance payment were to be increased to provide extra financial assistance payment to those who cannot afford the full cost of private rented accommodation. It took effect from 1 July 2016.
Focus Ireland welcomed the move to increase rent supplement as a very positive step, however highlighted that it is just one short-term measure to help tackle the housing crisis and not the full solution. It advised that increasing rent supplement must be part of an overall package to address the crisis, which sees over 6,000 people without a home.