Rights watchdog says separated father refused social housing with space for children ‘suffered rights violation’
A separated father-of-three who was deemed ineligible for social housing with space for his children suffered a violation of his rights, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has said.
The human rights watchdog yesterday appeared as amicus curiae in a Supreme Court case which seeks to clarify how separated parents exercising joint custody of their children are treated when applying for social housing assistance under the Housing Act 2009.
The case, Fagan v Dublin City Council, centres on a separated father of three children, Mr Fagan, who sought social housing assistance to accommodate himself and his children. The council assessed him as a one-person household for the purposes of the Housing Act, notwithstanding his three-night per week custody and co-parenting rights to his children, and so regarded Mr Fagan’s need as being for a single bedroom unit.
Mr Fagan argued that, in contrast to many other local authorities, Dublin City Council would not even consider his eligibility for social housing with space for the children, let alone assess their level of need as a family unit. At the time he commenced his case, the children lived with their mother in hotel emergency accommodation.
In its legal submissions, the Commission argues that the approach taken by Dublin City Council to automatically exclude Mr Fagan and his children from the definition of ‘household’ prevented them from being considered together for social housing eligibility.
In its submission, the Commission cites rights under the Constitution (Article 42A) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR Article 8) in relation to family life, parental and children’s rights, and the Council’s obligations as a public body to implement these rights.
The Commission further submitted to the Court that the council’s decision to automatically exclude Mr Fagan and his children from the definition of ‘household’ under the Housing Act 2009 undermines their right to enjoy the care and company of both parents on an equal basis, and also means that they do not properly inform Government statistics of those in need of housing.
The Commission submitted that “in refusing to recognise Mr Fagan and the children as a household at all, it appears to the Commission that the relevant constitutional and ECHR rights have not been vindicated”.
Laurence Bond, director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, said: “This is not an isolated case. The Commission understands that a significant number of families are in a similar position as this family in Dublin City.
“In our involvement in this Supreme Court case, the Commission has emphasised the importance of ensuring that local authorities’ approaches to housing, are consistent, support family relationships and protect the rights of children.”