I am delighted to have the opportunity to bring forward on behalf of my Independent colleagues our motion on homelessness, which was placed on the clár of the Dáil in December. Every day Deputies are contacted by upset constituents who are at the end of their tethers. These people are trying to look for housing assistance payment, HAP, properties, having been given notices to quit because of sale or refurbishment of the properties in which they are living, they are living in substandard accommodation or they are sleeping in their cars or in tents. There are mothers who are desperately upset with regard to how their children are reacting to the uncertainty relating to homeless accommodation. There are also those who are trying to get deposits together for mortgages and individuals who require urgent housing adaptations. The list is endless. What these people experience is exhausting for them. The Minister knows this as well as I do.
Given our experience over the past decade of poor performance in the delivery of social housing, does the Minister agree with the many excellent civil society groups, including the Mercy Law Resource Centre, who argue that we should insert a right to housing into our Constitution? Numerous Opposition Deputies have tried to bring forward motions and Bills on this issue, including Deputy Thomas Pringle who introduced the Thirty-Seventh Amendment to the Constitution (Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) Bill 2018. Is it now time to include the right to housing in our Constitution?
On Tuesday night, Deputy Broughan voted for the Motion of No Confidence in the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy. He said that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should be “banished from Government” for at least a generation for presiding over the growing Housing Crisis and allowing 4,000 children to become homeless. Last week, Deputy Broughan had submitted an oral Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone asking her to report the number of children that have been in emergency homeless accommodation by hubs or hotels and guesthouses for less than 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12, 12 to 24 and for 24 months plus, respectively. This question was transferred to Minister Murphy for reply.
There were more than 21,000 landlords receiving Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) for almost 37,800 tenancies around the country at the end of Quarter 2 2018. Funding for HAP, which accommodates people with a social housing need in the private rented sector, jumped by €149 million to €301 million in 2018. There are a further 19,388 Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) tenancies with funding of €134 million. Almost 10,000 people are now in emergency homeless accommodation across the state and we know that there has been some massaging of figures for them to appear lower. The true rate of homelessness, which includes hidden homeless, those in Direct Provision and domestic violence refuges is far higher than the official Government data.
I echo the comments of my colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett. Three years ago, I met the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon, and highlighted my concern at the time at the inappropriate accommodating of homeless children in hotel rooms and bed and breakfasts and at the lack of action by the Government in tackling the crisis. At that time, I also met the Children’s Rights Alliance regarding the inclusion of children experiencing homelessness in its report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. That summer, during the week of 24 to 30 August 2015, there were a shocking 707 homeless families and 1,496 homeless children but by the week of 21 to 27 May 2018, in the most recent figures made available, those numbers had jumped dramatically to 1,724 homeless families with 3,826 homeless children.