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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Housing Rights considers review of intimidation points

Our latest briefing paper looks at the issue of intimidation points, following on from  then Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín’s commitment to reviewing these points. Housing Rights welcomes this commitment and shares the Minister’s reservations regarding the original proposal to completely remove this award without alternative necessary safeguards. We believe a blanket removal would be too simple a solution for such a complex issue, and would not provide adequate protection to those in crisis whose lives are under threat.

While Housing Rights does not support the blanket removal of intimidation points, we understand that there are issues with the current system. Notably, the intimidation points test is narrow and does not account for victims of intimidation in all areas of life e.g. domestic violence victims or victims of human trafficking.

Issues with the current system of awarding intimidation points

Under the current system an applicant will receive 200 intimidation points if there is a serious risk the applicant could be killed or injured, or their home has been destroyed for the following reasons:

  • as a result of a terrorist, racial or sectarian attack, or
  • because of an attack motivated by hostility because of an individual’s disability or sexual orientation, or
  • as a result of an attack by a person who falls within the scope of the Housing Executive’s statutory powers to address neighbourhood nuisance or other similar forms of anti-social behaviour.

An award of intimidation points carries 200 points. Hand in hand with these points, the applicant will also receive 70 points in recognition of the fact that they are statutorily homeless and 20 primary social needs points in recognition of the ongoing fear of violence associated with the threat. This total award of 290 points, plus any additional selection scheme points to which a person is entitled, often results in an intimidated applicant moving to the top of the waiting list, to the detriment of others who may have already been waiting for some considerable time.

Although Housing Rights acknowledges that intimidation points can be open to abuse, and can negatively impact people who are excluded, we have also seen these points act as a lifeline to protect vulnerable people and their families.

The Future of Intimidation Points

Housing Rights recommends renaming intimidation points "trauma points", essentially creating an award for people who are homeless as a result of a trauma which poses risk to life or serious injury.

Housing Rights recommends that such an award encompasses a wider range of specified groups and acknowledge the critical nature of their situation e.g. domestic violence victims or victims of human trafficking. In any situation of life-threatening trauma, the need to safeguard lives must remain the priority, with Housing Selection Scheme points allocated accordingly. This could be at a lower level of points than 200 but should still be sufficient to reflect the urgency and importance of rehousing the members of the household into a safe and secure environment. We recommend the use of modelling to assist the Department in identifying the appropriate level of points for this situation.

Furthermore, we continue to recommend urgent attention to be given to addressing the underlying problem of lack of supply. Increasing the supply of social housing in Northern Ireland is crucial in order to meet the needs of all those on the waiting list. Our detailed recommendations and rationale are set out in our policy briefing paper on intimidation points.

Tagged In

Social Tenancies, Homelessness

This article was written on 18 December 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.