We recently assisted our client, who is a separated father with overnight access to his four children, in securing a higher rate of the Housing Assistance Payment on the basis that he needed to get a larger rental property to properly enjoy overnight access with his children. We relied on both his and his children’s Constitutional and European Convention protected right to family life and also raised potential discrimination issues against him on the basis of his status as a separated father.
Our client became homeless in November last year and has been accessing homeless service since that time. Prior to becoming homeless, our client enjoyed very regular overnight access with his children which was arranged in agreement with his ex-partner. Both parents had completed a written agreement in relation to the access arrangements which included agreement that the overnights would resume once our client moved out of homeless accommodation into more secure accommodation.
When he became homeless, our client was advised by the housing authority that he was eligible to apply for the Housing Assistance Payment which he then did. The Housing Assistance Payment is a type of social housing support where an individual, who is eligible for social housing, enters private rented accommodation on the basis that the rent is paid by the housing authority.
Our client was accepted for HAP but only on the basis that he was eligible for a single person rate of a maximum of €660 per month. Our client requested a higher rate of HAP on the basis that he would be unable to get a large enough rental property to accommodate his children at the single person’s rate. He was told orally that he was not eligible for the higher rate as increasing the rate on the basis of access was not the policy of the housing authority.
We were instructed by the client in or around January 2017 and then wrote to the housing authority requesting that our client be allocated a higher rate of HAP on the basis of the overnight access. In our correspondence, we provided extensive details of our client’s very strong and positive relationship with his children, his regular contact with them, the agreed access arrangements and the financial support he provided his children by way of regular maintenance payments and spending on regular trips and day to day expenses. We argued that a denial of a higher rate would be an unfair and disproportionate interference in our client’s enjoyment of his family life. We also relied on the rights of the children to enjoyment of the company of their parent and proper enjoyment of their family life. We referred to potential discrimination against our client on the basis of his status as a separated father. We cited the differential practices across other housing authorities, noting that the majority of other housing authorities provide for the higher HAP rate in circumstances where overnight access is agreed and evidenced by an applicant.
There was quite extensive correspondence exchanged with the housing authority and the case came close to pursuit of a remedy through the courts. Fortunately, the case did not escalate to litigation and the housing authority eventually agreed to allocate our client a higher rate of HAP. Our client is hugely relieved to have this matter resolved.