DRASTIC cuts in housing grants to the elderly and disabled will force more people into residential care, according to Fianna Fail’s Jim Hickey.
Mr Hickey - a candidate in Limerick City South in the 2009 local elections and who is considering another run next year - said the grants had been slashed by over one third in Limerick city to just over €1 million, while the corresponding cut in County Limerick was 14% to €1.47 million. While these reductions are of a lesser order than the national average, they will mean “fewer people in Limerick will be able to adapt their homes this year, the waiting period for funding will get longer, and inevitably people will no longer be able to live in their homes”, commented Mr Hickey, Ballysimon.
There are three categories of grant which allow elderly and disabled householders carry out works to stay in their homes. These include grants for converting downstairs rooms into walk-in showers; for ramps, hand-rails and stair-lifts. The means-tested schemes are administered by local authorities which can apply to the Department of the Environment to recoup 80% of costs.
Mr Hickey believes this year’s cuts could see elderly residents being “forced into residential care.”
“On top of this, respite carers’ grants and income have been drastically cut. It drives up costs in hospitals and nursing homes as people stay longer because of unsuitable living conditions at home,” he said.
Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan told the Dail last month that her department had kept aside a small capital reserve that would allow local authorities seek monies above their 2013 allocation in hardship cases.
“I recently approved supplementary funding of €1.2 million to 13 local authorities from this reserve,” she said.