Call for every death of a homeless person to have an ‘adult safeguarding review’

12th July, 2021 11:48 am

Joint Committee on Housing is also calling for an increase in rent supports for homeless people outside Dublin trying to rent a home.

Every death of a homeless person should be subjected to an “adult safeguarding review” to ensure any missed opportunity to support them is recorded and learned from, an Oireachtas committee will recommend.

The Joint Committee on Housing and Local Government, which is presenting two reports at a briefing on Monday, also calls for an increase in rent supports for homeless people outside Dublin trying to rent a home. The reports are the committee’s interim report on homelessness and an interim report on mortality in the single homeless population in 2020 by Dr Austin O’Carroll.

Dr O’Carroll, a north inner city GP specialising in healthcare to marginalised groups, found deaths in Dublin’s single homeless population increased by over 60 per cent last year compared with 2019, and almost doubled since 2018.

His report says those homeless more than 18 months have a mortality rate eight times that of people who have been homeless less than six months.

He reports 47 single adults known to homeless services died last year – an 80 per cent increase on the 26 who died in 2019, and a 147 per cent increase on the 19 homeless single adults who died in 2018.

In its report the committee calls on the HSE, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and the Department of Housing to agree procedures for the recording of every death of a homeless person “to ensure that there are adequate adult safeguarding reviews of such deaths”.

The committee heard from Dr Una Burns, policy officer with the housing charity Novas, who had noted increased drug-use among some people as a result of the policy by the Department of Social Protection of paying social welfare recipients two weeks’ payments every second week to reduce numbers attending post offices during the pandemic.

“Dr Burns noted that in McGarry House in Limerick during the first lockdown, the number of times Novas had to administer naloxone [an anti-overdose medication] more than doubled compared to 2019 due to the increase in overdoses as a result of the double payment,” says the report.

Households

The committee heard the provision of additional rent support, through the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, to homeless households and those at risk of homelessness in Dublin had helped both prevent between 400 and 500 households every quarter entering emergency accommodation, and helped others secure housing.

However, while the Dublin “homeless HAP” is up to 50 per cent higher than regular HAP, outside the capital it is just 20 per cent higher.

The report says, “this is an issue as the 20 per cent rate is not enough” and the 50 per cent uplift must be “expanded to local authorities in other counties where necessary to meet housing needs, particularly for single-person households”.

Among the committee’s 17 recommendations are that the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) be appointed to inspect all emergency accommodation; that the housing first scheme, targeting people who have become entrenched in sleeping rough with housing and intensive supports, be significantly expanded; and that the use of private operators for emergency accommodation be phased out.

Source: The Irish Times

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