Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Leader’s questions.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Leader’s questions. (25 Oct 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

...The Taoiseach: The death of anyone who is homeless is a tragedy. We extend our sympathies to the families concerned. I refer, in particular, to the deaths of people availing of homeless services. That matter is taken very seriously. The Deputy made a fairly bald statement in the context of offering an almost a direct juxtaposition between the numbers who have died and the position regarding homelessness. I do not think the figures bear that out. The Deputy quoted the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, DRHE records. That organisation records death notifications from all of its funded residential and outreach services in line with a procedural agreement with the Health Service Executive. These services include support for people in permanent tenancy - people who have been taken out of homelessness but are in permanent tenancies - including Housing First, for example, long-term supported accommodation and people receiving tenancy support who are not counted in the Department's homeless figures. We have to be very careful. Is the Deputy saying that all of those deaths occurred because people were homeless? Not necessarily; that is the point. Also, homelessness is a complex issue and we must take into account the range of issues that can lead to someone becoming homeless. Some 37 of the 70 deaths the Deputy identified were in the categories I have just mentioned. In other words, they related to people in permanent tenancies and not in a state of homelessness. Nonetheless, it is still extremely sad and tragic that anyone would lose their life but I do not have the specific causes of death for those 37 people . To be fair to everyone, perhaps more research is required in respect of those figures before we draw the conclusions the Deputy seems to be drawing in respect of the figures he articulated.

I believe all local authorities should follow the example of the DRHE in how it records people within its homeless services. As the Deputy knows, we are moving much more towards the Housing First approach to homelessness which is actually giving people a permanent tenancy almost from day one if that is possible. We just need to be very careful in terms of how we describe this and how we analyse and research it. That is all I would say in that regard.

There is a pilot study on data collection of homeless deaths nationally which has been undertaken by the Health Research Board on behalf of the Department of Health. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is liaising with the Department of Health and the Health Research Board on this study. I will talk to the Ministers for Health and Housing, Local Government and Heritage to see if anything more needs to be added to that research in order to get as complete a picture as we possibly can. The research is very important because it can inform policy. We saw during Covid how a strong synergy between those two Departments on homelessness reaped significant dividends for the homeless in the context of a positive response on the Covid issue.

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