Fine Gael town councillor Christy Hyland last week told representatives from the HSE that “cross checks and balances” needed to be carried out when people who are in receipt of rent supplement move to Westport to ensure that these beneficiaries are not abusing public money and have a clean record from other areas.
Following a request that HSE representatives attend a town council monthly meeting to explain the Rent Supplement Scheme to councillors, Mr Gabriel Irwin and Ms Siobhan Gannon, community welfare officers, informed the meeting that 400 people are in receipt of rent supplement in the Westport area, however the HSE does not run Garda background checks on tenants and has no remit in dealing with anti-social behaviour.
According to Mr Irwin, tenants source their own housing and the HSE pays the supplement and passes on details of any landlords to the Revenue Commissioners. Ms Siobhan Gannon said that the HSE does not pay the full rent as the tenant has to make a contribution which is often €24 a week.
Mr Irwin also added that the HSE has no authority to withdraw rent based on complaints unless directed by the courts to do so, but it can deal with looking into any fraud which may be taking place.
Councillor Christy Hyland asked about “abuse of public money” when one partner moves to Mayo and gets rent supplement while the other partner has rent supplement in another part of the country and therefore they have two houses. Mr Irwin said that was a rare occurrence.
Cllr Hyland said that there should be “cross checks and balances” conducted by the HSE into tenants’ criminal backgrounds which would enhance the screening process. Mr Irwin said that no such background checks are carried out as the HSE “have to deal with housing the good ones along with the bad”.
At present the rent caps for the Westport area are €108 per week for a single person for a one bed self contained accommodation; €155 for a couple with no children in one bedroom self contained accommodation; €180 for a couple or single parent with children; and €66 for a single person sharing.