My Department has, since 1996, operated the scheme of community support for older people, the purpose of which ich 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. I am anxious to ensure that this scheme continues to address the security needs of the most vulnerable older people in our society and accordingly a sum of £5 million has been provided for the scheme in my Department's Estimates for 2000.
Grant aid is available towards the cost of 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, such as the "pendant" alarm system which is operated via the telephone and is worn around the neck or wrist.
Under the terms of the scheme a maximum of 90% of the once-off costs associated with the purchase and/or installation of this type of equipment can be funded. While the maximum grant available under this scheme is 90% of the total cost, it is not possible to guarantee this level of funding in respect of all applications received under the scheme. Priority in allocating the available funds is given to the most vulnerable older people. The actual amount of the grant varies in the light of individual circumstances and needs and the overall demands which must be met.
Annual monitoring fees or maintenance fees associated with these systems are not provided for under the scheme. As these socially monitored alarms are installed by a range of companies the fees charged in respect of monitoring arrangements may vary from one company to another. In some instances the voluntary organisation submitting the application endeavours to cover the monitoring fees through fund raising.