Q&A: Housing and mobility grants
What grants are affected and who awards them?
There are three grants at the centre of the controversy:
(1) the housing adaptation grant for people with disabilities; (2) housing aid for older people; (3) mobility aid grants. They are all aimed at allowing vulnerable people make adaptations to where they live so they can remain at home in safety and comfort.
Who is affected by the rule changes for these grants?
Eligibility rules and amounts payable for the three grant schemes relating to housing adaptations and mobility are being changed. They will affect about 10,000 older people, people with disabilities or those with mobility
So, what are the main changes to the schemes?
From now on, all household members’ income will be included in the assessment for all three schemes. Spouse’s income was already included. This is now being extended to include all adults living in the house (ie those over 18 or over 23 if in full-time education). Any carer’s allowance payments will be excluded in calculating the household income. All applicants are required to submit proof that they have paid their local property tax.
How will people with
disabilities be affected?
For the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability, the amount of earnings over which no grant is payable has been reduced from €65,000 to €60,000. In addition, the number of income bands is being reduced. These bands dictate what proportion of costs will be covered in grant aid.
For example, a person
with an income of up to €30,000 will have 95 per cent of their costs covered. The proportion covered falls by 10 per cent for every €5,000 extra in earnings. So, a
person with an income of up to €35,000 will have 85 per cent of their costs covered.
What does it mean for
The amount of earnings over which no housing aid for older people grant is payable has been reduced from €65,000 to €60,000. The maximum grant has been reduced by €2,500 (from €10,500 to €8,000) and the age limit for eligibility has increased from 60 to 66 years. This age limit can in certain circumstances be lowered at the discretion of the local authority, according to the Department of the
Environment. This may happen in certain hardship cases or where guidance is provided by medical professionals. The number of
income bands is also being reduced – these dictate what proportion of costs will be covered in grant aid (see previous answer).
This means even those on incomes of below €30,000 will have to pay at least 5 per cent of the cost of any work.
What changes affect the mobility aid grant?
There are no changes to the mobility aid grant in terms of maximum grant (€6,000) or the means testing for this grant. The maximum grant to cover 100 per cent of the cost of works will be available to those with gross annual household incomes of up to €30,000.
How is the Government defending the changes?
It insists it is trying to “ spread the benefits as widely as possible” and to ensure fairness and value for money in the operation of the grant schemes.
Is is this just another cynical spending cut targeting the most vulnerable?
The Government is actually increasing the amount of money available for the schemes this year to
€38 million, up about
€3 million from last year. But the overall funding for these grants has been cut by about half over recent years.