Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, has called on government to remove an incentive for recently arrived Ukrainians to leave state provided accommodation and enter the private rental market that is already under considerable pressure.
He warned that the government’s Social Welfare Miscellaneous Provisions Bill is flimsy, incoherent and risks placing additional pressures on the private rental sector, at a time when the market is already dysfunctional due to the ongoing housing crisis.
He said that the reduced rate should apply to people who arrive after a particular date, instead of the governments approach in connecting the reduced payment to new ‘designated centres’ which new arrivals will be accommodated in, and that it seems unrealistic that those refugees here already and new arrivals won’t cross over at all.
Speaking today, after the passage of the Bill through the Dáil, Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:
“The government’s Bill is flimsy and poorly thought out. I regret that they have failed to accept Sinn Féin’s reasonable amendments.
“It is our view that Ukrainian refugees arriving after the date at which this legislation is concluded should all receive the reduced rate.
“I am concerned that the government’s approach risks creating an incentive for Ukrainian refugees to compete in an already overheated private rental market rather than staying in state provided accommodation. The housing crisis, caused by years of poor policies by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, is causing misery length and breadth of the state. I am concerned that additional poor planning will create even further pressures on the private rental system.
“We are completely opposed to the government’s proposal to force Ukrainians out of accommodation after 90 days, not only will this mean that in places where rents are high that many of those Ukrainians will not be able to find accommodation and will end up on the streets. It will also force Ukrainians in places where rents are less high to compete in an already overheated rental market.
“Inside the designated centre, if there were two adults and two children, between the payments and child benefit, they would receive about €828.80 a month. If they were outside the centre, they would receive €2,192 a month and there would be €800 towards rent. Even before the €800 towards rent, they would be two and a half times better off. It is not difficult to imagine that some people might decide they would be in a better position if they sought accommodation in the private rental market.
“It is for that reason that Sinn Féin tabled amendments to the bill yesterday. They were voted down by the government. It was disappointing that government didn’t listen to our warnings. Sinn Féin will re-table amendments again in the Seanad and it is up to government to re-consider them.
“In the context of the temporary protection directive ending next year, consideration needs to be given as to the tapering down of payments. This needs to be handled in a way that ensures that people who have already arrived here seeking protection are not put in a position of hardship and ensures adequacy. However, it is not acceptable for government to fail to prepare.
“The Irish people have responded tremendously to Ukrainians arriving here and supporting them and it is right that people seeking shelter from conflict and oppression be supported. However, it has been clear for some time that the situation surrounding payments was unsustainable and we do need to see an alignment between the Temporary Protection Directive and the International Protection system as a whole and therefore, to begin planning now for the ending of the directive.
“Failing to prepare for the future helps no-one. I believe that there needs to be a thoughtful discussion about the transition period between now and then, including the implementation of a reduction of payments in stages to a situation more closely in line with neighbouring jurisdictions.”