Homeless charities blasted for 'unaccountable taxpayer funding'

Conor Skehan steps down from the Government’s housing expert service next month.

A Housing Agency chief has blasted dozens of homeless charities for being unaccountable with taxpayer funding - writes dublinlive.ie.

Conor Skehan, who steps down from the Government’s housing expert service next month, hit out at them for also having overlapping or duplicating services.

He said: “We appear to have over 70 homeless charities – every single one needs to have an auditor. Every one needs a premises, a company secretary, a pension scheme.”

Mr Skehan highlighted the huge sums of taxpayer money given to homeless charities based on a report last year on homelessness by top accountancy firm Mazars.

In a hard-hitting interview with The Sunday Business Post, Mr Skehan continued: “We give €160million a year to the sector.

“The four biggest [charities] in Dublin have well over 900 employees with a payroll running to €80million or €90million.

“We have a sector who are unaccountable in terms of what they produce, or appear to have excessive duplication”.

His criticism comes as the Government prepares a probe into how housing charities spend the massive amount of funding they receive.

Accounting firm Mazars found in excess of 75 housing and homeless service providers got a total of nearly €100million from the Department of Housing every year.

The report said lack of information about how these funds were spent in tackling homelessness meant it was unclear if taxpayer money was being used in the most efficient way.

Next year’s planned Government probe will see the larger homeless charities revealing all their funding sources and how it’s spent.

Mr Skehan also attacked builders and homeless charities who suggest the solution lies in building new homes.

He warned the construction sector needs to update the old system that’s still in place.

His criticism comes as the Government prepares a probe into how housing charities spend the massive amount of funding they receive.

Accounting firm Mazars found in excess of 75 housing and homeless service providers got a total of nearly €100million from the Department of Housing every year.

The report said lack of information about how these funds were spent in tackling homelessness meant it was unclear if taxpayer money was being used in the most efficient way.

Next year’s planned Government probe will see the larger homeless charities revealing all their funding sources and how it’s spent.

Mr Skehan also attacked builders and homeless charities who suggest the solution lies in building new homes.

He warned the construction sector needs to update the old system that’s still in place.

The expert also slated activist led interventions like last year’s Apollo House occupation, endorsed by musician Glen Hansard and other Irish celebrities, describing the venture as dangerous.

Mr Skehan said: “It was a bunch of very well intentioned, but very poorly informed individuals thinking that they, in an instant could do something that set aside the work that hundreds of professionals set out to do every week.

“We saw how quickly it was abandoned because of the inability of people who had taken over a building to manage the tenants. In my view what was done was very dangerous.”

Mr Skehan, who believes there will always be homelessness, said there should be new regulations for building smaller homes and tighter funding controls for construction projects.

Despite the problems he believes the housing sector is on the mend and said: “The messiness of the sector and all the debate that’s going on is a real sign of progress”.

Read more news of Dublin on our site.

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