Reports reveal € 58m under-spending on traveler accommodation
Only two-thirds of funds allocated to local authorities for specific traveler accommodation have been taken in 10 years, according to a major study by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The findings follow on from equality reviews launched by IHREC two years ago, which gathered information from councils to examine issues leading to under-spending.
Each local authority was invited to carry out an equality assessment, this is a regulatory power of the IHREC.
Traveler-specific accommodation is centrally funded by the Ministry of Housing and until last year, local authorities could apply through a national budget and take the money.
The reports show that between 2008 and 2018, of the 168.8 million euros allocated to local authorities for specific accommodation for Travelers, only two-thirds (110.6 million euros) were taken.
The Commission found evidence that the underutilization was due both to structural problems in the way funding is allocated and to an inadequate process for identifying housing needs.
Difficulties in agreeing on the specifics of projects – such as site design and type of accommodation – were also identified.
The lengthy consultations and discussions with residents, as well as the planning process, also appear to be problematic.
Reports show that there is evidence of poor information gathering to inform decision making.
There is evidence that the process of assessing the number of Travelers in a given local authority area varies from council to council, and the process can be deficient in capturing accurate information.
Advice generally bases current and future needs on social housing demands and the annual estimate of Travelers in their area.
However, there is no possibility for people to identify themselves as members of the Traveler community on the social housing application form.
The IHREC claims that this lack of an ethnic identifier has had implications for the identification and inclusion of Travelers in particular housing flows.
While many local authorities say that members of the Travelers’ community express an interest in social housing, the Human Rights and Equality Commission says that the true preference of Travelers for social housing hosting is not transparent enough.
He indicates that some members of the community lack suitable accommodation for Travelers, or are exasperated by the overcrowding or poor hygienic conditions in these accommodation, and therefore feel that they have no other choice. than asking for social housing.
The IHREC says there is a lack of evidence of a full appreciation of the practical implications of cultural difference in service provision and engagement with the Traveler community.
He cites the example of insufficient appreciation of the cultural importance of horse ownership when providing specific accommodation services to travelers.
With regard to the supply of the main power, the Commission notes a lack of units of suitable size for many large Traveler families.
It indicates that no local authority reports specific measures taken to monitor the experience of travelers with private rented accommodation or to identify and respond to the specific problem of discrimination against Travelers in this sector.
Twelve local authorities have defined “indigenous requirements”, so that Travelers can benefit from social housing assistance and / or specific accommodation for Travelers.
The Commission identified the need for these local authorities to review this requirement to ensure that there is no discrimination against the requirements of the community at large in terms of access to social housing.
In most equality reviews, there was little or no evidence of the involvement of the Local Travelers’ Accommodation Advisory Committee (LTACC) or of any consultation with Travelers or Travelers. Travelers’ organizations, to inform the equality review.
Likewise, while there was evidence of good practice, in many local authority areas Travelers had little involvement or input in the management of their sites.
The Commission welcomed the fact that the entire budget allocated to Traveler accommodation was taken by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHPLG) in 2020.
He urged the ministry to “build on the flexibilities implemented with regard to the accommodation policy for travelers during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic”.