Limerick pilot to allow Rent Supplement recipients return to work

The Irish Times 25.03.2014

Jimmy Woulfe, Mid-West Correspondent

Wexford Rentals & Property Management have read that Limerick will next month lead the way in transforming State support for homeless families who are currently on Rent Supplement.

The City and County Councils have been chosen to roll out a new scheme which will enable tenants getting Rent Supplement to seek work without fear of losing benefits. The HAP scheme is being introduced as part of a pilot in advance of legislation which will be enacted in June. Six other Councils will begin to roll out the new system by the end of the year. Councils under HAP will deal with their tenants at local level, rather than the existing Dublin-based regime.

The HAP is being aimed at people currently on the Rent Supplement scheme. The scheme was previously managed by the HSE and is now run by the Department of Social Protection. Under the Rent Supplement scheme, a beneficiary is rendered ineligible if he or she gets more than 30 hours work a week. However, under HAP, a person will be able to get employment, and an adjustment of the rent assistance under HAP may or may not be deemed necessary, depending on the income. With Rent Supplement, the allowance is paid by the Department of Social Protection to the tenant, who then forwards payment to a landlord. The HAP scheme will be administered by local Councils and rent will be paid directly to the landlord by the Council.

Limerick City and County Manager, Conn Murray, told yesterday’s monthly meeting of Limerick County Council that being chosen to roll out the HAP scheme gave the two Limerick Councils a great opportunity to shape Government policy in housing support through their observations and submissions over coming months as the roll-out proceeds: “We now have the opportunity to test HAP on the ground, and at how it is working at the coalface.” He said they would be reporting back on issues as they arise, to help in the legislative process.

Rent Supplement tenants who want to switch to HAP will have to be in receipt of this assistance for at least 18 months and have their social benefits paid through the Post Office. The Council’s Director of Home and Housing Assistance, Caroline Curley, said there were about 1,400 people eligible to participate in the HAP pilot scheme in Limerick City and County and she expects that up to 300 will opt in over the next four or five months. It is envisaged that when the HAP legislation is enacted, those who come into the scheme will come off the Council’s housing waiting lists as they are deemed to be housed. However, for the pilot scheme, the tenants will remain on Limerick’s housing waiting list. Ms Curley said the HAP will present advantages such as allowing tenants get work, without losing Rent Supplement.