"Crazy, heartless and immoral"

Two letters to the Irish Times tell the appalling story of rent supplement in Ireland.  

The first from Peter McVerrry SJ puts in context the second letter from Eileen O'Sullivan telling her own moving story (below).

 Sir, – The plight of Eileen O’Sullivan (May 4th) is by no means unique.

Many people in private rented accommodation, who depend on a rent supplement from the State, now find themselves at risk of homelessness.

They are being told that the accommodation they have been living in, some of them for many years, is too expensive and are being given 13 weeks to find cheaper accommodation, or lose their rent supplement entirely. Some will not be able to find cheaper accommodation, as the demand for rental accommodation is increasing, and will become homeless, obliged to sleep in drug-filled emergency shelters. Those who succeed will find themselves in small, dingy, depressing flats, often unfit for human habitation, offered by unscrupulous landlords who will now be rewarded by the State with a guaranteed monthly income.

The current rent supplement policy is crazy, heartless and immoral.

In order to save €10 or €15 per week, the State is imposing huge mental stress and potential homelessness on thousands of people who have been forced into private rented accommodation because of a lack of social housing. – Yours, etc,


Minister Pat Rabbitte

I am a disabled person.

Today I was given notice of eviction from my flat by the local community welfare officer. Let me be clear here, it’s the community welfare officer who is evicting me. In fairness, she was upset, but said her hands were tied and the directive is being given from “above” with no discretionary leeway being given to any person.  This is happening because my landlady refuses to drop rental rates any further. As it stands the price she is asking for is below market rate, but €75 (per month) above the rent allowance cap. Where I live market rates for rentals are increasing due to the rise in demand as a result of few mortgages being granted to potential buyers.

Rent allowance limits beyond which, according to strict bureaucratic rules, you may not rent have dropped by the largest amount in the country. (Despite the response to a parliamentary question where Joan Burton back-pedalled slightly on her initial proposal to cut the limit by €200 per month).

I rely on family and friends for many things. When I inquire, there is nothing/no one in this area that will either accept rent allowance or a disabled person. There is a dearth of social housing in this area and no Nama properties (confirmed by local authority). Even if I could get a place to accept me it will cost me circa €2,000 to move, between deposits, rent in advance, vans and helpers.

There is no financial help being offered and the spectre of homelessness looms in three months time.  My elected representatives ignore my e-mails and requests for appointments at clinics.  The stress is impacting very negatively on my health. This is happening under a Labour Social Protection Minister.

Bunreacht na hÉireann (Article 45 (4) 1°) states: “The State pledges itself to safeguard with especial care the economic interests of the weaker sections of the community, and, where necessary, to contribute to the support of the infirm, the widow, the orphan, and the aged”.  It seems Labour and Fine Gael are dancing on the Constitution of this country.

I would ask Mr Rabbtte is this fairness or cruelty?  I would not wish this suffering on anyone, but it would be a lot less if I knew that it was going to help balance the budget in order to get us out of debt as a country and not to pay unsecured bondholders and private debt of dead banks across the EU. – Yours, etc,


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