Taoiseach defends changes to funding scheme for elderly

Kenny says funding for grant system was being increased

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there would ultimately be a more efficient system of processing the applications.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said there would ultimately be a more efficient system of processing the applications.

Thu, Jan 9, 2014, 16:58

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended cutbacks in funding to local authority housing grants to help older and disabled people living at home.

Asked about criticism of cuts to the grant in Dubai today, Mr Kenny said “the fact of the matter” was that the grant was being increased this year.

“Every local authority will have a higher allocation than before,” he said. “Minister Jan O’Sullivan is a very caring minister here and is bringing about changes that will ensure that the elderly people who need these grants as a priority will see that they get them.”

Mr Kenny said there would ultimately be a more efficient system of processing the applications.

“Every local authority gets an increase and it is designed to give more immediate effect in the interests of elderly people who need it.”

Details of the changes, which affect age and income eligibility levels as well as the amounts payable, are set out in a Department of the Environment circular which says the changes are to be implemented immediately.

Age Action, the charity supporting older people, has warned the latest cuts would make it increasingly difficult for some people to remain living at home.

Disability Federation of Ireland campaigner Martin Naughton urged Ms O’Sullivan to look at the changes again , “differently” and “from the ground up”.

Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan said the changes “will actually mean that more people will be able to stay in their own homes because they will be able to qualify for this grant”.

Ms O’Sullivan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the changes were made to “make sure the money goes to those who most need it”.

The increase in the age threshold for the older person’s grant from 60 to 66 was to “have it in line with all the other supports the State has for older people,” she said. She said the changes were only for new applicants and those aged under 66 can still apply for a mobility or disability grant from their local authority, she said.

Asked about changes to the upper income limits and the inclusion of all members of the household in means assessments , Ms O’Sullivan said there was a “hardship clause” that can be invoked “if the local authority feels there is a case that needs to be exceptional ”.

She said she believed the upper income limit of €60,000 is “fair enough”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said today the cuts were an unacceptable targeting of older people.

“People are now beginning to feel the full brunt of decisions made in advance, and in the Budget, in terms of extra taxes and charges,” he said.

He asked for publication of the full report that informed the decision by Ms O’Sullivan and also claimed it was disingenuous of her to say the department had retained the funding.

The cuts affect three grants: the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability, housing aid for older people and the mobility aids grant. Spending on these grants has almost halved over the past three years.

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