Written Answers. - Security of the Elderly Scheme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

113 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social Welfare if he will change the conditions for the 1997 scheme of grants for security of the elderly, as announced in the 1997 budget, in order to allow applications from individuals in their own right to be considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4026/97]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias de Rossa)

As the Deputy will be aware one of the recommendations of the special task force on security for the elderly established in 1996 was that my Department introduce a one-off £2 million grant scheme to provide grant-aid to voluntary organisations in relation to security initiatives for the elderly. That recommendation was accepted.

Subsequently, I established a National Advisory Committee, on which the National Council for the Elderly, the Irish Association of Victim Support, the Reach Out Campaign, Muintir na Tíre, the Irish Country Women's Association and the Garda Síochána — Neighbourhood Watch — were represented, to advise on a suitable scheme that would ensure that the available funds were targeted on the most vulnerable older people and the best possible value for money was achieved.

On the basis of the advice of this advisory committee and taking into account the amount of money available and the cost of security equipment, I decided that funding could be provided for: small-scale physical security equipment such as strengthening of doors and windows, window locks, door chains and locks and security lighting; and socially monitored alarm systems.
It was decided that to make the funds available through voluntary organisations was the most appropriate way of ensuring that the most vulnerable older people are targeted by the scheme. I was aware that many voluntary organisations were already providing services such as those covered by the scheme and had developed expertise and local contacts. Voluntary groups operate close to the ground and are aware of the greatest need in their communities. Working with the voluntary sector to deliver these funds to the most needy has the advantage that individual older people need not make an application and can have their needs met with the minimum of administration and without the need for a formal assessment of their circumstances by departmental staff. I was satisfied that this was the most appropriate way in which to structure my Department's response to the situation.
The scheme was operated on a one-off basis and was reviewed by the National Advisory Committee at the end of December 1996. Based on their recommendation and the obvious need to ensure that the most vulnerable older people continue to be assisted I obtained a further £2 million in this year's budget to enable the scheme to continue in 1997.
The scheme will be advertised shortly in the national papers and will be open for all community and voluntary organisations working with, or providing support for, the elderly to apply. I have no plans to change the way the scheme operates in 1997 as I consider that the current arrangements are most effective.