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Clare council challenged over record on Traveller accommodation


SINN Féin TD Violet Anne Wynne has raised, at national level, a number of questions over Clare County Council’s track record on providing accommodation for Travellers, writes Fiona McGarry.

In a Dáil debate on a report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Committee (IHREC), she said more must be done for those struggling to secure appropriate housing.

“In Clare, based on information compiled by the council, members of the Traveller community accounted for a stark 52% of the homeless figures last year, although they comprise less than 1% of the overall population,” Deputy Wynne told the chamber.

“They represent more than half of the total number of people affected by homelessness in Clare. The report flags that only 2% of those on the summary of social housing assessments for 2020, which catalogues the level of unmet need for social housing, are categorised as Travellers.

“These numbers just do not add up. It is concerning because without proper disaggregated data, adequate plans cannot be made and adequate housing will not be delivered. This matter must be addressed.”

Deputy Wynne also pointed to a recent report of the Ombudsman for Children which highlighted overcapacity some halting sites.

“The analysis was stark and appalling,” she said. “A report from the Office of the Planning Regulator regarding the 31 local authority county development plans showed that only four contain Traveller-specific objectives and that only one has a potential future site mapped for Traveller-specific accommodation.”

The Kilrush-based TD raised questions over vacancies in Traveller-specific accommodation in this county. “Last year in Clare, there were proposals to create five more versions of a previous model of Traveller-specific accommodation,” she said.

“I was also made aware at the time that there were 15 Traveller-specific accommodation units of the same model vacant due to historical reasons. What was the issue there? Why can these voids not be brought back into use?”

Responding to a query from The Champion on Deputy Wynne’s comments, Clare County Council said vacancy in Traveller specific accommodation continues to be a significant issue.

“The reasons for the vacancy are many however the primary reason is one of compatibility of Traveller families to accept an allocation in Traveller specific sites,” a statement said.

“The Council continues to work with Traveller families and household approved for social housing support to seek to secure agreement to address vacancy on Traveller specific sites. This is challenging as many Traveller households approved for social housing supports have not indicated a preference to reside in Traveller specific accommodation.”

“The vacant properties are throughout the County with 7 of 18 units vacant in Ennistymon; 3 of 9 units vacant in Shannon and 6 of 36 units vacant in Ennis at this time.”

Deputy Wynne also raised the challenges facing those with disabilities in terms of appropriate accommodation.

“Disabled people are the only group that have their own specific national housing policy,” she said.

“Initially, they had a four-year tenure, which was extended for another four years. What has been achieved? The [IHREC] report shows that disabled people are more likely to experience housing deprivation, including incidences of mould, lack of sufficient insulation and an inability to keep their houses warm.

“Although the report identifies the fact that disabled people do not necessarily spend long periods on social housing waiting lists, which is welcome, we have to remember that the official numbers of disabled people in need of adequate housing are likely to be distorted.

“At meetings of the Joint Committee on Disability Matters, I have heard many testimonies about the barriers to independent living. Despite eight years of the national strategy, access to housing for disabled people is still largely inadequate.

“They are the hidden homeless. Many are forced to live in congregated settings against their will and preference. They often cannot transition to community living because there is inadequate accessible housing.

“The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, has committed to transitioning 18 under-65s out of nursing homes in 2022. That is 18 out of more than 1,300, not to mention those who will ultimately transition in the next year.”

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