Dáil Éireann - Volume 543 - 06 November, 2001

Written Answers. - Housing Aid for the Elderly.

78. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the serious problems regarding the scheme funded by his Department and operated by the health boards under which assistance would be provided for persons over 65 years of age for the provision of central heating; if he will provide funds to allow the scheme to restart before the coming winter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24843/01]

486. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government his views on the allocations made to each health board for the administration of the housing aid for the elderly scheme; his further views on whether the existing system of making fixed allocations ensures optimum services for the public; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties which this system of allocations may create for health boards when their allocations are exhausted; if he will allocate additional money for works to be completed under this scheme in 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26077/01]

[399] 507. Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the reason funds are not available to cover applications under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in County Kilkenny; if a new allocation will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26317/01]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Molloy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 78, 486 and 507 together.

The special housing aid for the elderly scheme, which is administered by a task force under the aegis of my Department, provides assistance to improve the housing conditions of elderly persons living alone in unfit or unsanitary conditions. In addition, health boards were advised in February 2000 that the scheme was extended to include the provision of heating systems, where necessary.

The allocations to the boards are determined by the task force and are based on the statistical returns received twice yearly from the health boards, showing the level of activity within the area, the actual number of applications in hand and the estimated cost of these applications. I am satisfied that this is a fair and equitable means of allocating the available funding. It is a matter for the boards to apportion funding to each community care area, and to determine, within their allocation, the priority of individual cases in hand.

The scheme itself is extremely effective, with 2,288 jobs completed in the period January to June 2001, the latest date for which figures are available, an increase of 33% on the same period last year and 2,360 jobs are under way. An increase of 24% in applications has also been recorded.

In recognition of the valuable work being done, funding for the scheme has been increased significantly in recent years from £4 million in 1997, £5 million in 1998, £6 million in 1999 to £8 million last year and £8.65 million in 2001. The provision for the scheme in 2001 has been fully allocated and no additional funding is available in the current year. As the overall amount available for the scheme in any year is limited, it is not possible to dispense with the system of making separate allocations to the health boards. However, because the scheme is funded by the national lottery it has not been possible to allocate additional funding to the scheme from elsewhere in my Department's Vote where such funding might be available. This is an issue which I propose to resolve with effect from the coming financial year.