On the 19th November 2014, a Roundtable discussion was held at CLM’s offices. Wayne Stanley, Director of Advocacy, Communication and Research at Focus Ireland discussed the impact of repossessions on the social housing sector. He provided an overview of the main social housing supports including the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement (RS) and outlined the respective advantages and disadvantages of each type of support. In this way he illustrated how the State has turned to the private rental market as a way of providing housing. Jim O’ Callaghan, Head of Operations at the Housing Rights Service Northern Ireland made a presentation on the various projects run by the service such as the Preventing Possession Initiative and the Mortgage Debt Advice Service and described in particular detail the operation of Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. This is a scheme whereby a team of non-practising solicitors provide once-off legal advice to those facing repossession who have turned up to Court without representation.
Representatives from MABS, CICs, the Legal Aid Board and the wider legal community took part in the Roundtable. The attendees were of the view that there is a significant lack of support for those facing repossession both in terms of legal advice and representation and it was agreed that early intervention is critical. It was also agreed that a service based on the model operated by the Housing Rights Service in Northern Ireland would be suited to this jurisdiction. There were suggestions that a legal service allied to an entity such as MABS or the Legal Aid Board would be the most efficient way of adopting the Northern Irish model as they could provide on-going case assistance as well as advice and representation.
Following on from the Roundtable discussion, CLM made a submission to the Department of Justice & Equality, the Department of Social Protection and the Courts Service.
Download the submission here.