The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, today announced changes to make Rent Supplement available more easily to victims of domestic violence. The Minister’s announcement follows proposals from Safe Ireland for such assistance.
Under these changes, victims of domestic violence can get immediate access to Rent Supplement for a three month period to ensure that they are not prevented from leaving their home because of financial concerns. The usual Rent Supplement means test will not apply for this three month period. The process will work based on referrals from Tusla-funded services; referrals from An Garda Síochána and the HSE will also be possible.
After the three-month period, a further three-month extension may be provided, subject to the usual Rent Supplement means assessment. After six months, if the tenant has a long term housing need, they can apply to their local housing authority for social housing supports and, if eligible, will be able to access HAP.
Speaking today, Minister Doherty said:
“The current restriction on movement and the increased confinement of many people to their homes has brought the issue of domestic abuse into stark relief. As a long-time advocate on behalf of those who suffer from such abuse, I am determined that no one should suffer additional trauma during the current health emergency.
“For that reason, I am introducing a relaxation of the means-test normally required to qualify for Rent Supplement - support with deposit payments and rent costs - for an initial three months for victims of domestic violence. After three months, the individual’s ongoing entitlement will be reviewed based on the normal means-test for the scheme.
“An agreed protocol will be drawn up with TUSLA to enable services funded by the agency to make referrals to my Department for access to Rent Supplement for victims of domestic violence through a dedicated channel. My Department will also accept direct referrals through nominated contact points in An Garda Síochána and the HSE. I would like to pay particular tribute to Safe Ireland who worked with us and advised us on the best approach to take.”
Welcoming today’s announcement, Mary McDermott Co-CEO of Safe Ireland said:
“Safe Ireland, a nationwide coalition of 38 member Domestic Sexual and Gender-Based Violence refuge and support services, welcomes Minister Doherty’s swift and positive response to our call for the introduction of Domestic Violence Emergency Rent Supplement. This support will enable women and children fleeing violent partners to be sheltered quickly and safely regardless of their circumstances and directly addresses, in particular, the financial abuse which pervades many abusive relationships. We have worked positively with DEASP officials on operational details of this progressive social innovation”
Garda statistics recently indicated that the number of calls for help relating to domestic violence increased 25 per cent this year while more than 100 people were charged in the last two weeks of May as part of a new crackdown on violence in the home.
Given the scale of the issue, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan welcomed today’s easing of access to Rent Supplement. He said:
“This initiative, providing further vital support for those suffering from domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, is very welcome. We recognised from the onset of the crisis that those impacted by this horrific crime would be particularly vulnerable given the enforced proximity of their abusers.
“That's why An Garda Síochána launched the dedicated Operation Faoiseamh. We have also ensured all relevant services are maintained and prioritised. As part of this work my Department has provided over €196,000 in additional funding to community and voluntary groups to support their response to COVID-19. In addition we launched the #StillHere campaign to ensure all victims know support services are still there for them and I would just urge anyone suffering at this time to reach out to the Gardaí and to the protection of the courts.”
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