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 aid to voluntary groups and organisations who have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme.
Since I came to office in mid 1997 I have allocated a total of £13 million to this scheme which allowed some 53,000 individuals to receive assistance under the scheme and this funding has been made available through some 3,000 voluntary organisations. An allocation of £5 million has been made available to the scheme again this year. As applications are currently being processed by the regional offices of my Department is not possible to indicate at this stage how many organisations will participate and how many individuals will benefit from the scheme again this year. The organisation inidcated in the Deputy's question is one of the many organisations that has participated in the scheme in recent years and I understand that they have submitted applications under the scheme again this year.
Applications received under the scheme are processed by the regional offices of my Department who assess such applications to determine if they cab be funded and if so what level of funding should be allocated in each case. When undertaking this assessment my Department considers each application to determine to what extent it meets the criteria for the scheme and to what extend the most vulnerable older people in our community will be assisted. This assessment also includes examination of accounts submitted by these organisations in respect of funding previously received under the scheme. In addition my Department, when allocating funding, must take account of the overall demands to be met in relation to the available resources.
I understand that applications in excess of £500,000 have been received this year from the group indicated in the Deputy's question. These applications, in addition to all applications received under the scheme are currently being assessed by my Department's regional offices in the manner outlined above and the groups involved will be advised in due course of the outcome of their applications.