Sunday 19 May 2024
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Cuts to elderly and disabled grants unforgivable

Local Independent Councillor John Paul O’ Shea (Ind) this week said it was unforgivable for the government to cut vital funding and change the criteria for adaptation grants for the elderly and disabled in Cork.

The Housing Adaptation Scheme assists older people, people with mobility problems and people with a disability to make the necessary adaptations to their homes so they can continue to live independently in their own community.

The Housing Adaptation Grants Scheme has three elements which are as follows:

*       Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability: Assists with the adaptation of the home of a person with a disability to accommodate their needs.
*       Mobility Aids Housing Grant: Assists with adaptations to address mobility problems such as hand rails, access ramps, shower access, smoke alarms and stair lifts.
*       Housing Aid for Older People: Provides improved conditions for the older person (Over 60’s) by means of structural repairs or improvements, rewiring, drylining, replacement of windows and doors and installation of central heating.

The government this week notified all local authorities of the changes to the scheme which will undoubtedly make it harder for older people and people with a disability to continue to live in their own homes and communities. Some of the changes to the scheme are as follows:

  • Reduction of maximum grant aid for Housing Aid for Older People from €10,500 to €8,000
  • Increase of eligibility for Housing Aid for Older People from 60 years to 66 years
  • Mandatory contribution of minimum 5% towards all three grants regardless of income
  • All household members’ income will now be included in the assessment for all three grants.

Commenting on the changes to the scheme, Cllr. O’ Shea said “older people and people with disabilities have yet again been hit by this government with these changes. I deal with many of my constituents in the Kanturk/Mallow Electoral Area on a weekly basis assisting in filling these grant forms and I know, this is going to affect them severely. I understand and fully accept reviews of grant schemes must be done but some of these changes that have come out of this review will ultimately drive people out of their homes losing their independence”.

Cllr. O’ Shea pointed out an example of the effect one of these changes will have on older people. Imagine an old age pensioner living on his/her own in need of a housing aid for older people’s grant. His/her sole income is the old age pension (€230 per week). In order to pay the now mandatory contribution of a minimum of 5% towards this grant of €8,000, this pensioner will have to give up two weeks of his/her pension to pay for these works. Cllr. O’ Shea said older people in this situation simply won’t be able to afford this and it will deter them from applying in the first instance leaving them in a more debilitating situation long term. The changes to the scheme need to be more sympathetic and understanding of situations like this and need to be looked at again for the sake of our elderly or our disabled”.

Cllr. O’ Shea also raised the issue of funding for these grants and comments by Minister for Housing in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Jan O’ Sullivan that funding will be increased this year. “Since 2010, our funding has been decimated for these grants and we have people waiting over two years for monies to be made available. Cork County Council was allocated over €8.2m for this scheme in 2010 and this has been significantly reduced to €4.7m in 2013, a reduction of over 40% of funding in three years over the current governments watch. If the Minister is sincere about assisting older people and people with disabilities, she needs to funding this scheme according to the demand that is currently there for it”.