Manager of the Carers Association in Clonmel, and independent councillor Richie Molloy, has hit out at recent cuts to home improvement and mobility grants, which will affect people living with a disability, and the elderly.
Cllr Molloy said that the unannouced cuts will reverse long term government policy of keeping the elderly at home for as long as possible. Three grants will be affected: the housing adaptation grant for people with a disability, housing aid for older people, and the mobility aids grant.
Up until now grants of up to €30,000 were available under the housing adaptation scheme for structural changes to houses. Amounts up to a maximum of €6,000 were available for the Mobility Grant Scheme and a maximum of €10,500 for the Housing Aid for Older Persons Scheme.
In the case of the Housing Aid Grant for Older People, which is to make necessary repairs and improvements, such as rewiring or replacing windows, applicants must now be aged at least 66, up from 60, and the maximum grant is to be cut from €10,500 to €8,000.
From now on the income of all household members over the age of 18 (or 23 if in full-time education) is to be included in means assessments for all grants. Up to now, only the income of applicants and their spouses was assessed.
Under the Housing Adaptation and Housing Aid schemes, the number of income bands is being reduced from nine to six and households in the lowest band, with an income of €30,000 or less, who previously were granted 100 per cent of the costs, will now get 95 per cent.
The upper income limit to be eligible for both schemes has been reduced by €5,000 to €60,000, meaning households with incomes above €60,000 are now ineligible, Applicants for the grants must also prove they have paid their property tax.
“I am shocked at the Government’s latest sneaky cut. with these new cuts it’s making it very difficult for family carers to keep someone at home who suffers from various disabilities as its also very difficult to access home help hours or to get a week’s respite for the elderly person is next to impossible at present,” said Cllr Molloy.
Spending on these grants has almost halved over the past three years from €79m in 2011 to €35m in 2013. These latest cuts come on top of increasing restrictions on older people’s access to Fair Deal nursing home beds, the abolition of their telephone allowance and cuts to home-care budgets. Indeed counties such as Leitrim have had their grant allocation reduced by more than 90% during this period.
“It is completely at odds with the Department of Health’s policy to have less people in hospitals and institutions, and care for them at home. Rather than keep people at home, it will force them into emergency departments and hospitals which are already bursting at the seams.”
In 2013 there were more than 12,000 applications for the scheme, of which only 7,011 were granted (58%).