Monday, 9 November 2015

'Government using unfair criteria for Home Adaptation grants to justify decreasing their spend'

Dublin Councillor Told Increasing Budget for Disabled Persons Grants is Pointless

Ahead of tonight’s budget meeting Dublin City Councillor for the Cabra-Finglas Area David Costello has been told that Increasing allocation to Disabled persons grants in this years city budget is pointless as Council were unable to spend the total allocation from in 2016. The CEO of DCC is proposing reducing the citys allocation from €8.3m in 2015 to €6.3m in 2016. As it is estimated that DCC could only spend €6.1m in 2015.

Cllr. Costello said 'The housing grant scheme covers 80 per cent of the cost of building works required to meet the needs of disabled and elderly people. 2014 saw an almost 60%  reduction in the housing adaptation grant in comparison to 2013. During the councils budgetary process for 2015, I proposed increasing the allocation for this grant. This proposal was voted down by the controlling group made up of Sinn Fein-Labour-the Greens and Independents. Instead they introduced a budget which decreased the total allocation for 2015.'

Costello went on to say “ Last year I warned that new rules introduced to the application process which compelled families of elderly and disabled persons to contribute substantial amounts of money towards making adaptations to help maintain their loved ones independence were going to strangle the process.

"The reduction in grants awarded  is a direct result of the changes which were introduced by central government in 2014 and not an a reduction in the people requiring assistance. These changes included:
·  increase in eligibility age for the older person grants from 60 to 66.
·  all household members over the age of 18, who are not in full-time education, are now included in means assessments for grants.
·  changes to the income bands for the housing adaptation and housing aid schemes.
·  Households in the lowest band with an income of €30,000 or less, who were previously granted 100% of costs, now only get 95%.
·  The upper income limit to be eligible for both schemes was reduced from €65,000 to €60,000.

Costello said that “It is clear that new criteria are having a masive impact. It can be seen in the response of Kathy Quinn the City's head of finance to  the following question:

34.  Please confirm the date on which eligibility for DPGs changed to incorporate household income as against applicant income.

In January 2014 the eligibility criteria was changed and revised statutory provisions for the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability are set out in S.I. No. 104 of 2014 which came into effect on 27 February 2014. (Circular 12/2014 and Administrative Guidelines) The changes were intended to spread the benefits of the schemes as widely as possible and to ensure fairness in their operation.

The schemes have been revised to:

Include the income of all adult household members in the assessment of means for grant purposes for all 3 schemes.

Reduce the number of income bands from 9 to 6 for the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability and adjust the reckonable percentage of costs accordingly.
Reduce from €65,000 to €60,000 the amount of income over which no grant is payable in respect of the Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability.
Decrease the maximum amount of grant payable by local authorities under the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme from €10,500 to €8,000.
The most noticeable change is, for example, when an applicant may in the past have qualified on medical grounds for a grant but are now disqualified from applying to the schemes because they exceed the income threshold due to family members living in the home now being assessed for household income and this has had more of an impact on the numbers applying for the schemes than originally anticipated.

Costello went on to say:

“ I’ve witnessed young carers with modest incomes moving back home to look after sick family member been put under pressure to get bank loans to cover the cost of adaptations. These are carers who are saving the state a fortune while trying to keep their loved ones at home. Carers in some instances put their lives on hold to provide care.”

“It’s even worse for families caring for someone with Dementia because as a result of their illness they are unable to access credit from financial institutions.”

"Elderly and disabled people deserve to live in functional accommodation that allows them to live independently and with dignity. I am calling on the Central government to change the strickt criteria which is putting people off applying for grants and allow Dublin City Council spend money on keeping elderly and disabled people in their homes."

"In 2014 the housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan announced of an overall increase in funding of €3m for these grants. I would claim based on the numbers outlined here that she has reneged on this promise and let down the most vulnerable in our society."

The Disability Federation of Ireland called for an "Increase the HousingAdaptation Grant by €30 million to support people with disabilities currently living in communities."

Costello said "I am calling on the Minister for the environment to take this submission seriously and review the limiting criteria. I am also calling on councillors around the country to look at this issue during their budgetary process in the coming weeks."

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