Speech by Minister for Health Simon Harris TD at Press Briefing on Pillar 1 of the Government’s Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness


Speech by Minister for Health Simon Harris TD at Press Briefing on Pillar 1 of the Government’s Action Plan on Housing and Homelessness

I am pleased to be here today to talk about the contribution my Department and the HSE will make to Pillar 1 of Rebuilding Ireland as part of our whole-of-Government approach to housing and homelessness.

Along with the provision of stable housing, healthcare services have a particular role to play in supporting homeless people, each of whom has a unique personal history, their own story and experiences, which have culminated in becoming homeless and needing support.

While housing supply and accommodation are obviously major elements of the Government’s action plan, accommodation alone will not address some of the more complex needs related to homelessness like addiction and mental health issues.  I would like to acknowledge the work of Ministers of State Catherine Byrne & Helen McEntee who have responsibility for these key areas which affect a particularly vulnerable grouping of homeless people.

As part of the Action Plan, our Department has demonstrated its commitment to providing additional healthcare support services for homeless people through an additional €2 million in funding for the HSE for these services in 2016 and a commitment that this will treble to €6 million during  2017 and 2018.

This additional funding in 2016 will ensure that individuals and couples with high support needs can access the range of health services and supports they require while living in supported temporary accommodation or long-term accommodation.

Out of the €2 million in additional funding, €450,000 has been allocated to the Peter McVerry Trust supported temporary accommodation facility on Charlemont Street which will provide approximately 10 additional  care staff to support the health needs of the residents there.

€450,000 has also been allocated to Crosscare St Mary’s, off Dorset Street, again to provide additional care staff for the residents there.

€200,000 has been allocated to the Sophia House long-term accommodation facility on Sean McDermott Street, which is specifically aimed at supporting homeless couples with complex needs.  The additional funding will provide 4 care staff and 1 relief worker to support the residents there with their individual physical and mental health needs, and help them access outside primary care and other services.

The Programme for Government commits to step down facilities after drug rehabilitation and services to victims of domestic abuse.  An identified gap in service has been step down facilities for women who are homeless and pregnant.  With this in mind, €192,400 has been allocated to Daisy House Housing Association, which provides specialist supports to homeless women.

The additional funding will also be used to enhance in-reach primary care services, like GP, nursing or mental health nursing services, for people in supported temporary accommodation settings.  The HSE is currently conducting a needs assessment in conjunction with St James’s Hospital, the Mater Hospital and the current clinic provider, Safetynet, and €327,600 has been allocated for this initiative.

These enhanced services will be in tandem with the provision of care and case management, and intensive addiction and mental health programmes targeting homeless people in line with the National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework.
Because of the strong inter-relationship between drug addiction and homelessness, the development of the National Drugs Strategy, which is a priority for Minister Byrne in the coming months, will also contribute to the goals of the Action Plan.  It will include specific strategies and actions to address the rehabilitation needs of homeless people with addiction problems.

In 2017, the €6 million in additional funding will continue to support the voluntary and community sector in providing homeless services.

This will include supporting those availing of the “Housing First” scheme as this scheme grows and expands, and expanding the in-reach GP and nursing services in supported temporary accommodation where visiting health professionals visit to treat and care for homeless people.

There will also be a focus on the provision of longer term accommodation for homeless people with chronic and enduring health needs.

In Minister McEntee’s area, the further development of Community Mental Health Teams, including additional Mental Health Nurses and counselling services to support homeless people and those at risk of homelessness will also be a priority.

As Minister Coveney has already mentioned, we have also committed funding for an intermediate healthcare step-down facility and the development of an addiction treatment unit by Dublin Simon at Usher’s Island in Dublin 8.
In 2016 the HSE will spend just over €30m to improve the health and quality of life of homeless people with approximately 90% of this funding going to the community and voluntary sector.

I would like to pay tribute to the dedication of those working in this sector who I know are driven by compassion for our fellow citizens who find themselves without a place to call home.

Working together in a co-ordinated way we can deliver on the Action Plan, and for my part and that of Ministers Byrne & McEntee, we will not be found wanting in ensuring vulnerable homeless people have improved health services and the supports they need.

Thank you.