Groups welcome alarm grant reversal
Groups representing the elderly, people with disabilities and carers have welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse the cut in grants for personal security alarms.
The allocation for devices under the Senior Alert scheme was to be reduced from €2.45 million last year to €1.1 million in 2013 as a result of budget cutbacks, but it emerged last night that Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan had secured enough resources to reinstate the grant at last year’s levels.
Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said the move would mean older people who needed the alarms could continue to live independently in their own homes.
“We are glad that common sense has prevailed,” he said.
Had the cut to the Senior Alert scheme gone through, new applicants aged over 65 who were not living alone would no longer have qualified for the alarms, which are worn around the neck or wrist and connect to a call centre through a phone line.
The Carers’ Association also welcomed the reversal, but said more needed to be done to support ill or elderly people and their families.
“It is good news, but the grant should never have been targeted in the first place,” said association spokeswoman Catherine Cox.
"The biggest issue for family carers now is the cut to the respite care allowance, and we are calling on the Government to make a similarly courageous decision to reverse that."
Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said older people would be relieved that the Government had decided to do a u-turn on the “incredibly cruel” cut.
He said the reversal was an “admission by the Government that they made a mistake in slashing funding for a scheme that has helped tens of thousands of older people over the years”.
A Government source told The Irish Times yesterday that “the political damage likely to arise from the decision [to cut the grant] was far greater than the relatively small saving would warrant”.
A spokesman for the Department of Environment confirmed today that community groups will be required to monitor the allocation of alarms and arrange to recover and re-distribute ones which are no longer being used.
The decision follows consultations in Kilkenny on Saturday between Mr Hogan and Muintir na Tíre, the community association which provides about half of the alarms under the scheme.
The association’s national co-ordinator Liam Kelly said the move could help to save the scheme money.
“Sometimes the alarms would only be used for a number of months, and there would be a significant percentage of them lying around in communities,” he said.
The alarm recycling initiative will be rolled out on a pilot basis, beginning in Tipperary next month.