Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

121 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs the reasons grant payments for 2000 applications have not been made in respect of security for the elderly scheme; if this will be arranged as soon as possible; if there will be two application dates in future years in order to prevent the build up of backlogs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4008/02]

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 which have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. Since its commencement, a total of €32.5 million has been allocated to the scheme, which to the end of 2000 has assisted some 80,482 individuals. Details of grants awarded in 2001 and the number of ben eficiaries of the scheme last year are currently being compiled and will be made available in the coming weeks. Some €4.4 million has been provided for the scheme in 2002. Voluntary or community based groups seeking funding under the scheme of community support for older people must satisfy the defined eligibility criteria of the scheme, comply with Government tax clearance procedures and provide satisfactory accounts in respect of previously paid grants.

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 keeps the administrative procedures applying to the scheme under review and makes 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.

The organisation mentioned in the Deputy's question is one of the voluntary organisations which has submitted applications for funding to my Department in recent years. While every effort is made to ensure the prompt processing of applications under the scheme, my Department, in administering this and other grant schemes funded from public money, must ensure that all criteria are adhered to, including the provision by funded groups of satisfactory accounts in respect of previously issued grants.

An application for funding was received from this organisation in 2000 and again in 2001. However, as satisfactory accounts were not submitted to my Department in respect of the grant issued in 1999, it was not possible to process the application further. My Department has been engaged in lengthy correspondence with the group on this matter and recently received accounts and other documentation which are currently under consideration. Representatives from my Department met with the organisation recently to discuss outstanding issues relating to their application. As a result of that meeting my Department is reviewing the application and additional information provided by the organisation. My Department hopes to resolve this situation shortly and will be in touch with the organisation in due course.

Under the scheme of community support for older people, the maximum grant available is 90% of the once-off costs of purchasing and installing the necessary security equipment. However, the actual level of funding made available for individual applications varies according to individual needs and circumstances and according to the overall demand to be met in relation to the available resources.

It is necessary to assess all applications at the same time so that an appropriate level of funding can be determined for each application, taking into account the need to target funding at those most in need of assistance under the scheme. In order to facilitate this process it is necessary to have one closing date for receipt of applications so that an accurate assessment of the total number of applications received and the level of funding sought can be made.
However, while a closing date for receipt of applications is applied each year, the regional offices of my Department are flexible in accepting late applications, their prime concern being the safety and security of vulnerable older people in the community.