I propose to take Questions Nos. 589, 590 and 607 together.
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. Since its commencement, a total of £22 million – 28 million – has been allocated to the scheme, which to the end of 2000 has assisted some 80,482 individuals. I am anxious to ensure that the scheme continues to address the security needs of the most vulnerable people in our society and, accordingly, a sum of £3.5 million – 4.4 million – has been provided for the scheme in 2001.
Under the terms of the scheme grant aid is available towards the purchase and/or installation 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 funding is available towards the once-off costs of obtaining or installing the relevant equipment. Annual monitoring fees or maintenance fees associated with socially monitored alarm systems are not provided for under the scheme. As these fees are levied by private service providers, my Department has no role in setting or abolishing such fees.
Individuals wishing to obtain assistance under the scheme must do so by way of a voluntary or community-based group as grant aid is not provided directly to applicants. Details of individual beneficiaries of the scheme are not publicised in order to protect the confidentiality of vulnerable
older people. Details of all organisations receiving funding under the scheme have however been made available to the Oireachtas Library each year from 1996 to 2000 for the information of Members. This information is provided in the format specified by the Deputy. Details of organisations funded under the 2001 scheme will be made available to the Oireachtas Library early in 2002.
Applications from voluntary or community based groups seeking funding under the scheme are assessed locally by the various regional offices of my Department. In performing these assessments my Department is charged with ensuring that each application and the proposed beneficiaries satisfy the eligibility criteria of the scheme. I am anxious that this scheme continues to operate in a way that benefits the most vulnerable older people in our society. With this in mind my Department keep the administrative procedures applying to the scheme under review and make amendments as appropriate. My Department also monitors the scheme on an ongoing basis to ensure that those organisations receiving funding under the scheme are complying with all the scheme regulations and requirements.