Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor
"It is not acceptable to cite staffing issues as a barrier," said Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor as a war of words erupted in Carlow over her Bill which proposes new deadlines for social housing applications.
Cllr Will Paton raised the matter at this month's meeting of Tullow Municipal District when he asked if the housing section of Carlow County Council would have the resources to meet a three week statutory deadline to process social housing applications - which the Bill is proposing.
"Not possible with existing staff levels," Housing Officer, Josephine Kavanagh, told members.
"As it is, we're to the pin of our collar, a lot of work is required," Ms Kavanagh added and said that on average the local authority would take around six weeks to process an application but legally they have up to 12 weeks.
However, Senator Murnane O'Connor has hit back and said: "We are in a housing crisis. It is not acceptable to cite staffing issues as a barrier to achieving this turnaround.
"My Bill aims to help those who are not even counted in the high homeless numbers we see, those who cannot afford rents and are couch surfing, living in overcrowded conditions.
"My Bill would avoid the scenario of someone becoming homeless because they cannot access the Housing Assistance Payment.
"Any household qualifying for social housing support not currently housed by their local authority, can apply for HAP. Without it many people can find themselves pushed into homelessness because of skyrocketing rents.
"We need to ensure that we do all we can to help people. We need certainty for families if we are to really meaningfully help those possibly facing homelessness.
"I believe there is a way to turn these applications around within the three weeks. There are too many inefficiencies and this would be a way to fix them.
"It is common right now in Carlow for people to be waiting far longer than the twelve weeks to know if they qualify."
She added: "It is not acceptable and yet common practice when an omission is made on an application for the housing list for the whole application to be sent back to the applicant instead of one quick phone call to ask for the missing document or signature.
"Three weeks is certainly possible. Staffing issues are an issue for Government, it cannot be used to say this will not work.
"This Bill which moves to second stage in the coming weeks aims to set up a better system for people suffering and I aim to see it pass all stages of the Oireachtas.
"We need to prioritise in order to fix the housing crisis. I was thrilled to bring this Bill to my Fianna Fail parliamentary party and they overwhelmingly supported it."