Government reverses cut in panic alarm grant
The Government has decided to reverse the cut in a grant for personal panic alarms for sick and elderly people.
As a result of the budget the allocation for panic alarms was cut from €2.45 million last year to €1.1 million in 2013.
Following a campaign by groups representing the elderly and people with disabilities over the past few weeks, the Government has decided to restore the grant to last year’s level. Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has secured the resources from his departmental budget to bring the allocation back up by €1.35 million.
Government sources told The Irish Times yesterday that the budget cut was made on the projected spending of the Department of Environment for 2012, but the end-of-year result allowed enough leeway for the full grant to be restored.
A range of groups representing older people have protested strongly against Government cutbacks which would have seen the grant for the installation of a panic alarm cut as well reductions in the annual monitoring fee.
People aged over 65 who were not living on their own would have no longer qualified for the device, which is hooked up to a call centre through a phone line. The new rules were designed to apply to new applicants for the scheme, and would not have affected people already in the scheme.
Over the past three years 23,686 people have availed of the grant. The alarms are provided by community groups under the Seniors Alert scheme.
One of the organisations which campaigned most actively against the cut was Muintir na Tíre, which has provided up to 50 per cent of the alarms under the scheme. It argued that the €1.3 million cut would mean fewer elderly people would have been able to avail of the scheme and would have been endangered as a result.
The Minister was convinced by the campaign that the grant for older people to live independently and in greater safety should be restored.
“The political damage likely to arise from the decision was far greater than the relatively small saving would warrant,” said one Government source.
The scheme is administered by 440 community groups around the State. The eligibility of an individual for grant aid under the scheme is left to the discretion of the community group involved. People who apply for assistance are visited by a member of the community group who assesses the need in the home for the person.