THE GOVERNMENT HAS been criticised for cuts to housing grants which were introduced this year without any announcement with advocacy groups and the opposition labelling them “mind-boggling” and “sneaky”.
Age Action, a group representing the interests of older people, has this morning criticised cuts to housing grants which were introduced this year without any announcement from the government or local authorities.
The details of the cutbacks are set out in a circular from the Department of the Environment from December, it is reported today, and local authorities were told on Monday they were to be be implemented immediately.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for the publication of the circular and said that this was part of an “unacceptable targeting of older people again”.
“The full report should be published and I think the government should lay off older people and I think there has been a sneaky, charge-by-charge, cut-by-cut targeting of older people.”
Changes to housing aid grant for older people will mean a cut of the maximum amount from €10,000 to €8,000 and applicants will now have to be at least 66-years-old rather than 60.
The housing adaptation grant for disabled people and the mobility aids grant will also see cutbacks.
Income bands are being reduced and those in the lowest band of €30,000 a year or less will now be asked to contribute 5 per cent of the costs themselves.
These grants are used for making homes generally more habitable, funding the replacement of doors and windows or contributing towards heating installation. In the case of the grants for disabled people, they are used for installing hand rails or lifts to assist people to get around their homes more easily.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Head of Advocacy at Age Action Ireland, Eamon Timmins, said these changes will be “significant” for older people on lower incomes and was particularly critical of the plan to ask those on the lowest incomes to contribute “for the first time”.
“There was no official comment or confirmation of changes to the scheme,” he said. “There are thousands of people around the country on waiting lists for this.”
If people are going to be asked to wait another six years, then the government needs to be very clear if they’re changing the scheme significantly.
“It’s mind-boggling, it’s a scheme that effects people and they’re entitled to know what the rules are, particularly if the government is changing them,” he said.
People who need it most
Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan stressed this morning, while speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, that the overall amount of money for these grants was increasing, despite the changes. She also said that the rules were being tightened up “to make sure the people who need it most get it”.
“I believe that it will, in fact, allow people to stay in their homes,” she said.
However Timmins said this is “coming at a time when the HSE service plan is making it more difficult for people to get into a nursing home bed.”
“Now they’re making it harder and harder for the small group, hanging in there, trying to live in their own homes,” he said.
He said that it “makes sense to invest in people’s own homes” as the grants are significantly lower than the cost for he State of caring for a person in a nursing home.
- additional reporting Hugh O’Connell
- First published 8.35am