Dáil Éireann - Volume 492 - 17 June, 1998

Written Answers. - Security of the Elderly.

41. Mr. Farrelly asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a huge shortage of money allocated by his Department for the provision of telephone alarm and monitors for the elderly; if he will introduce a Supplementary Estimate to alleviate the hardship caused by this shortfall in finance in his 1998 budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14286/98]

Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): As you are aware my Department has, since 1996, operated the scheme of community support for older people, the purpose of which is to provide funding for initiatives to improve the security and social support of vulnerable older people. This funding is provided by way of grant to voluntary groups who have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme.

A sum of £2 million was made available to the scheme in 1996, and some 15,000 individuals were assisted that year. In 1997 an initial allocation of £2 million was again made to the scheme. However, I sought and received approval from [1197] Government to allocate an additional £3 million to the scheme, thus allowing the Department to assist some 21,000 individuals in 1997. A sum of £2 million has again been allocated to the scheme for 1998. The closing date for applications was 22 May and the regional offices of my Department, who process applications under the scheme, are currently assessing the level of demand.

The objective of the scheme is to address the security needs of vulnerable older people and a significant number of people have benefited in this regard. I am anxious to ensure that the scheme remains focused and provides this assistance in the most efficient and effective way possible. In this regard, my Department has, in consultation with the Departments of Finance and Health and Children, commissioned an independent review of the scheme which will consider how the scheme is meeting its objectives and whether it is doing so in the most efficient and effective way possible. This review will not be available until later this year. In the meantime, the scheme is continuing to operate and the question of whether additional moneys should be assigned to the scheme will have to await the completion of the review I have mentioned and in any event would have to be considered in a budgetary context.