Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

Let’s put Olwyn Enright on Rent Allowance

February 19th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Social Policy

News continues to emerge about rents dropping throughout the state which is not a bad thing for those seeking private rented accomodation following years of high rents and crazy landlords (otherwise knowns as the market!)

However Fine Gael’s Social Welfare Spokesperson, Olwyn Enright TD., thinks that rent allowance needs to be reduced now also in line with the drop in rent.

While it may sound like a logical idea in the current climate it is fairly clear from Ms. Enright’s suggestion that she has never had to apply for rent allowance before or tried to rent accomodation whilst being a recipient of the allowance. She surely does know the difficulties that people who are entitled to rent supplement go through in accessing accomodation through her constituent work. (And it makes her suggestion without any other policy change on support for those receiving the allowance all the more stupid though she does say ‘Obviously, the interests of tenants and the provision of good-quality accommodation must be protected’, but goes on to look for cuts and does not say how this protection would operate.).

The majority of accommodation advertised by landlords/agencies on in Dublin City states that rent allowance is not accepted. Where it is accepted it’s clear from many of the adverts that  accomodation is often of a lesser quality  in comparison to properties which do not accept the allownce.

Also Ms Enright has no proof that rents in this ‘lower end’ of the sector are falling at same level as rental prices of property for those who are not on the social welfare benefit.   If rent does fall then the level of the allowance payable should drop naturally anyway.

It’s not the social welfare recipients fault if his/her rent does not fall either and I foresee a lot of Community Welfare Officers being told to get more people out of their ‘expensive’ accomdation fairly quickly.

Instead of suggesting a complete overhaul of housing benefit/support including measures which would prevent landlords from refusing to accept rent allowance particularly to those who may lose their jobs during their leases Ms. Enright has gone for the populist stance. One started this week with Monday’s Goodbody report which also emanated from the lunar regions for logical application and understanding by the authors.

Other suggestions that Ms. Enright might make that would save the money and improve the system that she seeks to address would be

  • that applications be merged with jobseekers allowance applications or other benefit applications.
  • Community Welfare Officers and other social welfare officials be able to liaise with housing standards and tenancy regulators regarding housing standards and tenant welfare issues.
  • The Rental Accomodation Scheme should be extended with more staff directed to it within local authorities in order to meet the demand.
  • the Department of Social and Family Affairs need policies addressing specific sectors within the now growing number of those in receipt of the allowance – single people, those with children, people with disabilities and health support needs and recognise rent supplement levels and accomodation needs are different for these groups.

Many of the points made above are carried in several reports commissioned by governments and support agency over the years and gathering dust in the Department or Civil Service.

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