Families at risk of losing their privately-rented homes will have rent supplement payments increased and possibly extended for a short period under a new plan to prevent homelessness.

The protocol agreed within the four Dublin local authority areas will allow the Department of Social Protection to use discretion to help families about to face eviction.

There are approximately 76,000 people paying rent using a payment from the State. However, the caps on these rent supplement payments mean they are insufficient to meet the rent in many areas.

The Dublin local authorities, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, housing agency Threshold and the Department of Social Protection have come together to prevent more people losing their homes.

One of the main parts of the plan is a pledge that extra money can be paid by the State to landlords for up to 13 weeks.

This payment will be made on the recommendation of Threshold to the Department of Social Protection and can be extended by a further 13 weeks if families still face becoming homeless.

The new protocol is set to be launched officially next week.

A telephone helpline is also going to be established to encourage people to seek help before they become homeless.

There have been calls from opposition parties in the Dáil to extend the protocol to other parts of the country.