Community Law and Mediation held a roundtable discussion in the area of Social Welfare Law on the 7th December last. The focus of the roundtable was to examine the right to adequate rent supplement in the context of social welfare legislation and human rights law for those whose means are insufficient to meet the costs of their accommodation needs and are in receipt of, or entitled to receive, rent supplement. We also examined the social policy implications of this issue. We decided to examine this topic because for those on low incomes or on social welfare payments it is extremely difficult if not impossible to secure accommodation in the private rented sector. This has led to a housing and homelessness crisis for those on low incomes and on welfare payments. A combination of factors has created this crisis including the lack of housing supply in general, the lack of social housing construction over the past decade, the pressure this has placed on the private rented sector, and the fact that the maximum rent limits under the rent supplement scheme have remained the same since 2013 despite a sharp rise in rents. To address the risk of homelessness for those on rent supplement the Department of Social Protection has introduced preventative measures to support rent supplement recipients and new applicants. Three speakers presented on various aspects of this issue. Alan Brady BL barrister and Adjunct Law Lecturer considered the issue of the maximum rent limits in the context of the rent supplement and housing assistance payment schemes from an Administrative law and human rights perspective. Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, examined the broader social housing context, the various factors causing homelessness and in particular the link between the rise in homelessness and the max rent limits. Jackie Harrington, Principal Officer with the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Policy Unit, of the Department of Social Protection, gave a brief overview of the rent supplement and housing assistance payment schemes and focused upon preventative measures such as the Tenancy Sustainment Protocol agreed with Threshold and the circular issued to all CWO’s in late 2014 regarding the use discretion as provided for under Article 38 to raise the rent limits.
We held a roundtable at our offices in the Northside Civic Centre, Bunratty Road, Coolock on Thursday 12th November 2015. The purpose of the roundtable was to explore the topic of Age and Discrimination in Employment, from a legal and social policy perspective. Our demographics are changing. People are living longer, older people are healthier and more active and have valuable contributions to make to society either from within the workforce or in other aspects of their lives. At this roundtable, we welcomed different perspectives on the legal and social implications of this. We looked at the issues, both legal and social, experienced by older people in employment. One of the legal issues we examined was that of a mandatory retirement age and objective justification. This was an important discussion in the context of the increase in the State pension age and the then recent Employment Equality (Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill, which had been recently voted through to Committee Stage unopposed. We also dealt with queries that engage the employment equality legislation, such as prevention of access to training and promotion, along with other manifestations of direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of age. Our speakers were Cathy McGrady BL and Naomi Feely, Senior Policy Officer with Age Action.