Taoiseach's claim about 'low' rate of homelessness based on figures 'two years out of date'
Taoiseach Leo Varadkarâs recent claim that Irelandâs homelessness levels are âlowâ by international standards is based on two independent reports, one of whose Irish data is two years out of date and both of which specifically say international comparisons are questionable, writes Fiachra Ã" Cionnaith.
A Government spokesperson confirmed the source of the claim despite insisting the Taoiseachâs comments are correct amid criticism from homelessness charities and opposition leaders who asked âwhat planet is he living onâ.
Asked at the Fine Gael national conference how he can say his Government is addressing the housing crisis when more than 8,000 people are currently homeless, Mr Varadkar said the situation is far worse in other countries.
âIreland has one of the lowest homelessness rates by international standards compared to our peers,â he said.
âTheyâre the stats, we can provide them for you.
âThat is a good thing in Ireland, that we have a low level of homelessness compared to our peer countries. But whatâs better than that is we donât think thatâs good enough, and we want to continue to reduce homelessness in the years ahead.â
A Government spokesperson tonight told the Irish Examiner that the figures are from a July 24, 2017, OECD report and a Feantsa housing body report earlier this year.
The OECD report said Irelandâs homelessness rate is 0.8% of the population â" more than seven nations examined, but less than more than 20 others.
However, the reportâs findings were based on unchecked official figures provided from random 2006-2016 years by each country, making comparisons difficult, with Irelandâs own figures being two years out of date.
In addition, the OECD report specifically said âthere is no agreed international definition of homelessnessâ.
Similarly, while the Feantsa Europe and Homelessness: Alarming Trendsâ report said Irelandâs homelessness rate is not as high as other countries, it noted family homelessness has surged by 59% in 12 months â" more than every other European country except Luxembourg, Greece and Denmark.
In a statement defending Mr Varadkarâs comments, a Government spokesperson said: âIn order to make valid comparisons of homelessness between different countries, you need to use data which is collected according to the same or similar standards.
âThis data tends to take time to collect so there is invariably a delay between reporting and measurement.
âReports from the OECD and Feantsa both make valid comparisons. Both stress the difficulty in making di rect comparisons â" on account of differing definitions in different countries. Each have different advantages.â
However, the Simon Communities said the Taoiseachâs claim Irelandâs homelessness levels are âlowâ by international standards âis not trueâ as âother countries use a broader definition of homelessness when gathering their statisticsâ.
Inner City Helping Homeless chief executive Anthony Flynn similarly said the Taoiseachâs comment is âa Walter Witty remarkâ and asked âwhat planet are the Taoiseach and Housing Minister living onâ.
Fianna FÃ¡il leader MicheÃ¡l Martin said Mr Varadkar is trying to âunderstateâ the âdepressing realityâ of children living âin hotel bedroomsâ, while Sinn FÃ©in leader Gerry Adams said Mr Varadkarâs remarks are âdeeply insultingâ.
Latest figures show the rate of people who are ho meless in Ireland stands at a record 8,374 people, including 5,250 adults and a shocking 3,124 children.Source: Google News