Friday, 5 April 2013

Press Release - Looney: Housing Adaptation Grants Cuts “a Let Down by Labour in Govt”

Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Cllr on South Dublin County Council (SDCC), has stated that swingeing cuts to grants for older and disabled people to adapt their homes are “inexcusable” and “another let down by Labour in Government.” Looney’s comments come as South Dublin County Council’s grant funding for adaptation schemes is cut by more than half for 2013. 

Three separate grants are administered by SDCC for housing adaptation. The Housing Adaptation Scheme for People With a Disability is a grant for making homes more suitable for people who are disabled, up to a maximum of €30,000. The Mobility Aids Grants Scheme is usually for people requiring home adaptation due to mobility issues brought on by ageing, such as a downstairs bathroom or stairlift, up to a maximum of €6,000. The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme is for necessary works such as re-wiring and re-roofing up to a maximum of €10,500.

All three schemes are dependent on means testing and estimates from three contractors, while two of the schemes also require occupational therapist reports. Almost 250 homes in the Tallaght area alone have benefited from these schemes in the past two years. 

Grant funding from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to SDCC for the schemes was reduced from €3.08 million in 2011, to €2.73 million in 2012, and to just €1.21 million for this year. To date, almost €435,000 of the €1.21 million has already been paid out this year, with many in-progress works yet to be funded.

In response to Looney’s motion on the matter at a recent Area Committee meeting, Council officials confirmed that almost €2 million was allocated from the funds for last year and that the current funding is unlikely to meet the demand. Looney is also due to raise the matter at next Monday’s full Council meeting and has written to Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan to ask her to revisit the cuts.

“I have been delighted to assist many older and disabled people in informing them about and assisting them with applications to these important schemes,” noted Looney. “South Dublin County Council has had a strong record of ensuring grant aid for all applicants who meet the strict criteria during my time on the Council. This inexcusable cut, which cuts the scheme by almost 2/3 since 2011, is likely to mean that older residents and those who are disabled will be unable to avail of necessary housing adaptations to allow them live with independence and dignity. It is also bad news for local tradespeople who rely on schemes such as these to make a living in these precarious times.”

“I would urge all those who are interested in applying for the scheme to do so immediately as grant funding may run out on the basis of these cuts.”

“The Labour Party entered government stating that they would protect vulnerable people. This has been another let down from Labour in Government. There are options beyond the austerity agenda which can protect our vulnerable citizens and protect employment. With this in mind, I have written to Minister O’Sullivan to ask her to revisit these cuts.”

County Council Meeting Headed Item based on my motion below (updated figures have since been provided)

Monday, April 08, 2013

REPORT OF TALLAGHT AREA COMMITTEE  MEETING (1) & (2) - Monday, 25th March, 2013

The following motion was considered at the Tallaght Area Committee held on 25th March 2013:-
It was proposed by Councillor D. Looney, seconded by Councillor C. King:
“That this Committee notes with serious concern the announcement by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government of substantial cuts to housing adaptation grants for older people and those who are disabled; that a report be provided on the uptake of these grants by those in this area in 2011 and 2012; that a preliminary report be issued on how these cuts will affect grants in the area under the remit of this committee for 2013; and that a full report on the impact of these proposed cuts be made to the April Council meeting.”

The following report by the Manager which had been circulated was READ:

“The Council operates three Housing Grant Schemes for older people and those who are disabled as follows:
·        The Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for People with a Disability
·        The Mobility Aids Grant Scheme 
·        The Housing Aid for Older People Scheme.
These grants are available in respect of owner occupied dwellings and certain rented dwellings (subject to written permission being provided by the Landlord).
Grants may be awarded under these schemes by South Dublin County Council to qualified applicants subject to the criteria set out in the regulations and associated guidance documents issued by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DoECLG).
Budgets for these grants are not allocated on an electoral area basis.   However detail as requested in respect of the electoral areas of Tallaght Central and South for the combined schemes for years 2011 and 2012 is set out in the following table, as well as an outline of the expenditure on these schemes a county-wide basis:
No of Applications received from Tallaght Central and South EA
€ paid
€ County Wide
South Dublin County Council recently received notification of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government 2013 approved allocation for these grants in the sum of €1,213,986.05.  This reflects a 40% reduction (nationally) over the 2012 spend. 
In correspondence received from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government it was advised that due to the finite resources which are currently available, local authorities should ensure that funds are targeted at essential works only and that an effective and easy to understand scheme of prioritisation be put in place to ensure that applications are prioritised on the basis of the medical needs of the applicant. The three levels of medical priority advised to this Council are as follows:
1.      Priority 1: Terminally ill or mainly dependent on family or a carer, or where alterations/adaptations would facilitate the discharge from hospital or alleviate hospitalisation in the future.
2.     Priority 2: Mobile, but needs assistance in accessing facilities, or where, without the adaptation the disabled persons’ ability to function independently would be hindered.
3.     Priorty 3: The applicant is independent, but requires special facilities to improve their quality of life, e.g. separate bedroom or living space.
 To date grants to a total value of €356,343 over the 3 schemes have been paid out countywide.
As already outlined budgets for the various grant schemes are not allocated on an electoral basis.   Accordingly at this point it is premature to state how this reduced allocation will affect grants in the area under the remit of this committee for 2013.”
The motion was PASSED