House grants slash

GOVERNMENT assistance for the vulnerable in our society has taken another frightening dip, with the news that the Laois allocation of grant aid for the elderly and those with disabilities has been cut by a staggering 75%.

GOVERNMENT assistance for the vulnerable in our society has taken another frightening dip, with the news that the Laois allocation of grant aid for the elderly and those with disabilities has been cut by a staggering 75%.

Mayor of Portlaoise town, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald revealed the shocking depletion set for local services in 2013 at this month’s meeting of Portlaoise Town Council. She said that last year, the Laois allocation for the Housing Adaptation Grants Schemes for Older People and People with a Disability was €1,080,000, but this year the county is set to receive just €260,923.46.

Speaking after the meeting to the Leinster Express, Cllr Fitzgerald explained that the grants are used for such home modifications as installing stair lifts. She said that she feels Laois is almost being punished for being so good with last year’s allocation.

“We were very good, we didn’t give out massive amounts,” she said, revealing that all of the 2012 allocation was used in the county. She also said that a lot of money had already been allocated for projects this year, but this may now have to be looked at following the drop in funding.

The town mayor said that this year’s funds will have to be kept for absolute emergencies, although she still intends putting together a deputation to campaign the minister to reverse the decision.

The matter was recently raised in the Dáil by Laois-Offaly TD, Brian Stanley. Deputy Stanley said the cuts were an attack on the elderly and the disabled and he described as “callous” such a move.

“The Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability has a maximum grant of €30,000 and is to assist with works necessary to render the house more suitable to accommodate a disabled person,” he explained. “Works include downstairs toilet facilities, stair lifts, accessible showers etc. Another is the Mobility Aids Housing Grant Scheme which covers a basic suite of works to address mobility problems. A third scheme is the Housing Aid for Older Persons grant to improve the condition of an older person’s home.”

Dep Stanley said that the allocation for Laois in 2011 was €936,874, which has been cut to €208,739 this year. Offaly’s allocation has fallen from €1.4 million to €500,000 over the same period. He revealed that the national overall allocation has been cut from €63.5 million in 2011 to €35 million this year.

“This government is continuing to attack the elderly and disabled to save money to pay bondholders and private debts,” said the Sinn Fein TD. “They have already removed the Mobility Allowance and Motorised Transport Grant, and cut the Respite Care Grant along with the Household Benefits Package. These payments are designed to provide liveable, independent accommodation with a bit of dignity for the old and disabled.

This callous and short sighted approach by the Government is to be condemned - a Government whose promises to protect the most vulnerable have once again been cynically abandoned,” he concluded.