Northern Ireland Homelessness highlighted at the UN
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has published its report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It will be presented this week in Geneva during the Committee’s examination of the United Kingdom. The Commission’s report addresses a range of issues including Homelessness, Accessible Childcare, Age Discrimination and Cultural Rights
The Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby commented:
“Whilst this report to the United Nations interrogates a number of issues, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is housing in Northern Ireland that takes up the bulk of the findings presented. It is concerning that the rates for statutory homelessness are higher here than anywhere elsewhere in the UK. We must also remember that homelessness goes much further than people living on the streets and covers people having to stay with friends, or living in other transient circumstances.”
Five homeless persons have died on the street in Belfast in early 2016. The Commission’s report highlights recommendations to tackle the issue made by practitioners working in organisations dealing with homelessness including: a need for housing solutions with wraparound support, detox facilities for homeless people, and delivery of specialist support at the point of contact.
Chief Commissioner Les Allamby added:
“Homelessness can also be much more than a housing issue. Providing housing stability is a starting point to getting people back on to an even keel. It is clear that efforts are being made by the Northern Ireland Executive through various recent initiatives such as the Ministerial High-Level Group. We acknowledge this, however the Executive must increase emphasis on a joint delivery of services to address the homelessness facing 20,000 households. We also want to ensure no one else dies while living on our streets.”
Please contact Claire Martin on: (028) 9024 3987).
Notes to Editors:
The UN Treaty Process
1. The Committee’s examination of the UK will take place at the United Nations offices in Geneva in June 2016. As part of the NIHRC’s engagement with the United Nations and Council of Europe treaty monitoring processes, The Commission is submitting this report in respect of the UK’s Sixth Periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Access the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s full report to the Committee on the Commission’s website here.
Housing and other selected recommendations
2. N.I Homelessness Statistics: In 2014/15, 19,621 households presented as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive an increase of 4 per cent (759) from 50 previous year. The household types with the highest number of homeless presenters in 2014/15 included single males (35 per cent) and families (32 per cent). Of the 19,621 households presenting as homeless in 2014/15, 11,016 (56 per cent) were accepted as Full Duty Applicants (FDAs) and 6,797 were rejected. Of households accepted as FDAs, 3,568 were dealt with in 2014/15. Research has shown that the rates for statutory homeless acceptances are higher in NI than anywhere elsewhere in the UK .In 2012/13, statutory acceptances per 1,000 households in NI ran at 13.4 per cent compared to 11.8 per cent in Scotland, in Wales, 4.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent in England.
3. Accessible Childcare: Unlike the rest of the UK, NI only has a draft childcare strategy and there is no statutory duty on public authorities to ensure adequate childcare. The NIHRC notes that a 2013 report by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland on Childcare: Maximising the Economic Participation of Women, emphasised the need for a childcare strategy in light of the “lack of centralised direction” within the NI Executive, as well as the need to “substantially increase” resources.
The N.I Human Rights Commission has advised that the UN Committee may wish to recommend that the State party:
i. prioritises the urgent publication of a Childcare Strategy in NI and dedicates the necessary resources to ensure the availability of accessible and affordable childcare;
ii. ensures a model that operates outside traditional working hours to meet the needs of those working atypical shift patterns, as is the case for many parents in NI, including in particular Black Minority and Ethnic parents.
4. Cultural Rights
Irish Language Act: The N.I Human Rights Commission has recommended that the UN Committee may wish to ask the State Party for an update on the implementation of the Irish language strategy and may wish to recommend that the State party provides the necessary support to progress legislation in order to protect and promote the Irish Language in NI.
Ulster- Scots Strategy: The N.I Human Rights Commission has recommended that the UN Committee may wish to ask the State Party for an update on the establishment of the Ulster Scots Academy and recommend that the State party ensures necessary support including structures are in place to ensure full implementation of the Ulster Scots Strategy in NI.
Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition: The N.I Human Rights Commission has recommended that the UN Committee may wish to ask the State Party for an update on the establishment and work of the Commission on Flags, Identity and Culture in N.I
5. The Commission is one of the three ‘A’ status National Human Rights Institutions in the UK. As a National Human Rights Institution the NIHRC engages with and reports to the United Nations’ and Council of Europe’s treaty monitoring processes.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission
6. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland (NI).