Dáil Éireann - Volume 418 - 30 April, 1992

Written Answers. - Expansion of DÍON.

56. Mrs. Barnes asked the Minister for Labour if he will extend the remit of DÍON to include the provision of funding for hostel accommodation in view of the alarming number of homeless Irish citizens in London; whether he intends to travel to London to review the extent of homelessness among Irish emigrants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): I should like to assure the Deputy that the position of Irish people who find themselves homeless not only in London but in any part of Britain is a matter of very serious concern to the Government.

State aid for voluntary emigrant welfare organisations in Britain is distributed on the recommendation of DÍON — the British-based Advisory Committee on Emigrant Welfare services. Despite the fall-off in net emigration (down to 1,000 in the year up to April, 1991) and the severe budgetary situation, the Government have maintained the funding of the DÍON committee of IR£0.5m. per annum for the last three years, having regard to the continuing needs of emigrants in Britain.

In recognition of the housing problems faced by some emigrants, the committee has given priority consideration to applications from organisations or projects concerned with arranging accommodation for the homeless.

Included in the list of approved grants in 1991 are several organisations catering specifically for the needs of the homeless. However, I should emphasise that nearly all the organisations funded by DÍON concern themselves with problems of homelessness and unemployment.

[2250] I would remind the Deputy that problems of homelessness in Britain are essentially matters for the relevant authorities in that country. Recently the British Government announced the launching of an £800 million Government-backed scheme using public and private sector capital to make more housing available for the homeless.

The Deputy will appreciate that because of Exchequer considerations and the obvious high cost of accommodation in Britain, capital expenditure on the provision of hostel accommodation could not be funded from the DÍON allocation. As it is, applications for funding each year are at least three times as great as the moneys available.

I would like to reiterate the Government's concern for any homeless Irish people in Britain. The DION committee keep me fully briefed on matters relating to the welfare of Irish emigrants in Britain and in the circumstances the question of my travelling to London to review the situation does not arise.