Tánaiste Joan Burton has said the Government did not increase rent supplement in the Budget because the numbers receiving it are decreasing due to the reduction in unemployment.

She also emphasised that the Budget had levied no additional contribution on recipients of the payment.

Ms Burton was speaking at a post-Budget briefing in her capacity as Minister for Social Protection.

She was responding to criticism from housing charities of her failure to increase the supplement - which helps unemployed people and others on social welfare.

Both the Simon Communities and Focus Ireland have criticised the absence of an increase to compensate for the spiraling rents in the private domestic rental sector.

Ms Burton said her department had transferred significant funds to the Department of the Environment to transfer thousands of families onto the Housing Assistance Payment.

Unlike the Supplement, this will allow recipients to continue to receive financial assistance after getting back to work.

She said it would do this by charging a differential rent, related to the household's income.

An investment of €2.2bn for social housing provision over the next three years was announced by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin in today’s Budget.

He said that overall, this large-scale investment will fund the provision of over 10,000 housing units by 2018.

Focus Ireland welcomed the Budget investment in social housing.

However, the organisation said it was “highly concerned” that there was no mention of the Rent Supplement in the Budget.

It said that the failure of this payment is the main reason for the rising number of families losing their homes and becoming homeless.

Focus Ireland Director of Advocacy Mike Allen said: "The majority of the growing number of families have lost their homes because they couldn't afford to pay rising rents as their rent supplement payment didn't cover it."

He said: "These families had made huge sacrifices to top-up the rent supplement to meet the market cost of rent; month on month but this is not sustainable.

"They end up falling into rent arrears and debt and lose their accommodation and become homeless," Mr Allen added.

Meanwhile, The Peter McVerry Trust said that it was disappointed there had been no move to increase rent supplement levels or introduce measures to control rent increases.

Pat Doyle CEO of the organisation said: "We are disappointed that the Government decided not to increase rent supplement levels or introduce measures to stop rental prices increasing beyond the reach of many people.

“We hope that the Government will revisit this issue as it is essential that rent supplement levels more closely reflect the cost of private market rents," Mr Doyle said.