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22/09/2021

'Most vulnerable' people in Derry facing lengthy delays for social housing

Some of the most ‘vulnerable’ people in need of social housing in Derry are being forced to wait six and seven months to have their applications processed by the Housing Executive. A local councillor has explained how one woman living in the city has been waiting since March, during which time she suffered a ‘suspected heart attack’ due to fraught living conditions, and there is still no timeline in place for when points will be allocated. Under the Housing Selection Scheme people are prioritised in terms of points, which are awarded for various reasons such as having dependent children or having an overcrowded house. The final bracket of points is for those deemed to have ‘complex needs’. This falls under the health and social wellbeing category and incorporates people experiencing domestic violence, those who have been threatened or have serious health difficulties. These applications have to be regulated and verified by the PSNI or other statutory services. Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly said it is leaving the ‘most vulnerable’ people at risk. “A lot of these people are going through intimidation in their homes. “These are people who can’t stay in their own home due to intimidation and health implications, people I’ve dealt with who have come from Apex and Habinteg are having to wait six or seven months. One lady I’m dealing with who is looking for a house in the Waterside sent her application at the start of March. “Since then her situation has gotten worse as she was taken into hospital with a suspected heart attack brought on by the pressures of living in the environment she’s in. More evidence has to be sent, and neither the first or second part of the application have been looked at. “She has been told by NIHE that they don’t know when the points will be added and these points are the difference between her getting housed and not.” He said the Housing Executive is in desperate need of more resources as two or three people are having to work through a ‘heavy case load’. “There seems to be a backlog with all these cases lying on somebody’s desk and this has to be cleared. That is then impacting the most vulnerable people here in Derry.” The NIHE website states in special circumstances applicants may have needs which mean they require intensive care and support. “This need may be met in a specialist housing scheme,” it states. “Where additional support or care services are provided or in general housing where a tailored support and care package has been arranged. “A detailed assessment of support and care needs will be carried out where necessary. Where a specialist scheme is considered appropriate, applicants will be placed on a separate, non-pointed waiting list. “Where support and care can be provided within general housing, applicants may be awarded additional points under the health and social wellbeing category.” However, there have been issues processing applications in a timely manner which occurs when the Housing Executive has to manage cases from other Housing Associations or referrals from a Health and Social Care Trust which have to be assessed at its Regional Office. A spokesperson for the Housing Executive acknowledged that it has been experiencing ‘temporary’ delays in assessing complex needs cases. She commented: “The Housing Executive manages applications for social housing under the Housing Selection Scheme. “The vast majority of applications and transfer applications are assessed by our local office staff with no delay. However, there are a limited number of cases that require applicants with intense care and/or support needs – complex needs – to be assessed by Regional Office staff. This includes transfer applications from housing associations identified as requiring complex needs assessment, as well as direct referrals from the Health and Social Services Trusts. “It is difficult to determine timescales as there may be several agencies or departments that we must consult during the assessment process. “The Housing Executive can confirm that we are experiencing a temporary delay in assessing complex needs cases in our North Region office. We apologise this may be causing distress to some applicants, and are working to have this resolved as quickly as possible.”

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