United Nations World Day of Social Justice 2018
20th February 2018
Today marks the United Nations World Day of Social Justice. Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. This year’s theme is ‘Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice’. Many people migrate to Ireland and there are also many returning Irish emigrants. The growing Irish economy makes Ireland attractive to migrants and returning Irish emigrants seeking to work, study and settle here. For many they find work and housing. Others, however, are not so fortunate.
They can face barriers and challenges in accessing employment, housing and social protection and need support. They may have little or no finances or family connections. These barriers can extend to difficulties in accessing homeless services as Local Housing Authorities may link provision of homeless services to the assessment of a person or family being in social housing need, something that is in part based on a person or family having a “Local Connection” to an area. If they no longer have a local connection to the area or have been away from the area for a long time they may not be eligible for homeless services. This can lead to many difficulties and can increase the instances of rough sleeping.
COPE Galway considers that a review of the application of the Housing Act 1988 in relation to the eligibility criteria for the provision of emergency accommodation should be undertaken. The eligibility criteria for emergency accommodation should differ to social housing eligibility requirements. The “local connection” test for social housing and Circular 41/2012 should not be applicable to the assessment to determine eligibility to access emergency accommodation provision.
Under the Housing Act 1988, the housing authority is responsible for determining whether a person is regarded as homeless; Section 2 of the Act sets out the requirements in this regard, regardless of that person’s social housing need. This would ensure equality in that people receive equal treatment regardless of the particular local housing authority dealing with the case and could decrease the instances of rough sleeping of those with no “centre of interest” as a result of not being entitled to an emergency bed.
Homelessness is a social justice issue that affects many people both locally and nationally. We need to provide homeless services based on the need of the individual applying rather than their approval for social housing supports. It is important that all individuals who present as homeless are offered temporary emergency accommodation, so as to prevent rough sleeping.