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On Thursday, 9 May, Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project Leader Sarah Owen and Policy & Outreach Officer Niall Foster attended the Interdepartmental Committee on the Irish Abroad convened by Minister of State for the Department of Foreign Affairs (International Development and Diaspora) Seán Fleming, TD.

(From left) Safe Home CEO Karen McHugh, ICPO Policy Officer Catherine Kenny, and Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project Leader Sarah Owen attend Interdepartmental Committee meeting on 9 May at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Along with our partners Safe Home Ireland and the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO) we had the opportunity to raise potential impact of the proposed General Scheme of Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2024 upon Irish citizens and their family members in need of social housing supports upon return to Ireland – particularly those in need of urgent access to emergency homeless accommodation.

From left: ICPO Policy Officer Catherine Kenny and Crosscare Irish Diaspora Support Project Leader Sarah Owen / Policy & Outreach Officer Niall Foster outside Iveagh House.

About the Proposed Legislation

The General Scheme of Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2024 proposes to include “lawful and habitual residency in the State as an explicit eligibility criteria for social housing support.” It is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government, and Heritage.

Our Position

The inclusion of a habitual residence test (similar to the habitual residence condition for social welfare assistance) as a precursor to social housing assessment raises a number of particular concerns for returnees engaging with our respective services – the majority of whom in our collective experience face existing difficulties with accessing suitable housing supports on return to Ireland.

We believe that the proposed amendments create further barriers to accessing social housing support, including the provision of homeless emergency accommodation, for those who need it most upon return.

In light of these concerns, we made four recommendations to the Committee:

  1. Provide for further opportunities for consultation, prior to implementation of the Bill
  2. Confirm that safeguards are in place to ensure that individuals and families presenting as homeless are not denied access to emergency accommodation placement
  3. Allow for the continued use of discretion by Local Authorities, especially for returnees with non-Irish family members, in order to ensure households are not split or excluded from availing of social housing support
  4. Ensure that necessary decision-making and appeals infrastructure is developed prior to adoption of the Bill, including: (a) detailed guidance to Local Authorities on how to assess whether applicants are habitually resident with particular reference to returning Irish citizens, (b) mandatory training and review processes for frontline staff tasked with determining habitual residency, and (c) a robust appeals process, establishing an independent body with responsibility for appeals

Read the final submission on returning Irish emigrants here.

Our Policy Work

Our policy work is directly informed by the needs and experiences of Irish citizens engaging with our service and aims to promote solutions. In particular, we advocate for policy reform around common challenges faced by returning Irish emigrants.

Learn more about our political advocacy for the Irish diaspora and previous outcomes here.

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