Housing (Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision for ease of access to a housing adaptation grant for people with a disability for those applicants qualifying for same and to provide for related matters.

I wish to share time with Deputy Frank O'Rourke.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The policy on all sides of this House, as I understand it, is that elderly or ill people should be allowed to remain in the comfort and security of their own homes, or the homes of members of their family, rather than being in nursing homes or in State care in hospitals, and so on. In order to achieve that objective, repairs or alterations have to be done to a house in many cases. There is a scheme of State grants for alterations in those circumstances and there has been increased provision for this lately, which I welcome. Unfortunately, there are serious defects in the administration of this scheme and how it is operated by various local authorities. It is extremely slow and tedious and it operates unevenly between one local authority and another. What we are proposing is a system which would bring uniformity to this area and would enable these grants to be processed much more speedily and efficiently.

It is a humane measure. It would enable people who are ill or elderly and who wish to live with their own family, or their family members, to get the grant so the patient or elderly person could move into the accommodation as quickly as possible, certainly much more quickly than at present. I urge the Government to adopt the Bill. Deputy O'Rourke will explain how it will operate.

I welcome the opportunity to introduce the Bill with my colleague, Deputy O'Dea. The thinking behind this, as Deputy O'Dea outlined, is to make the system more efficient and effective and to have it operate evenly across all counties with a universal approach. At the moment people are unnecessarily delayed in nursing homes and hospitals due to the amount of time needed to process and approve grants, which take approximately six months on average across all local authorities. We know people who are elderly or ill are more comfortable and independent when living in their own home, and this is about making the process more efficient.

Our proposal, which we hope is accepted by other parties, is that when an application is made, it is put forward to the local authority with an occupational therapist's report, whether from the community or the hospital, with a proposal from a registered builder or architect, and accompanied by two quotations. When all that is furnished to the local authority with proof of the person's income and proof they have paid the local property tax, all of which are part of the current process, a decision would be made on the application within a month in order to give some continuity and efficiency to the system. This is very important for the applicant, who will know they are being approved for the grant and what level of funding is approved. In addition, it obviously helps the process by preventing unnecessary delays in regard to bed-blocking in hospitals and nursing homes. It also gives some certainty to people making the application as to when they will get back into their own home.

This is hugely important for those involved. They need to have this work done on their homes. It can be a difficult and traumatic time for them and it is very sensitive for families.

This is an important Bill. The funding is in place in local authorities so no additional cost will be imposed. It is about making the system more transparent, efficient and effective and helping those in need to get meaningful and timely access to the funding. We do not propose any major changes to the current process, we propose only to make it more efficient and pragmatic. I hope we get the support of the House for the Bill. It is end-user driven and that is who it seeks to help. It seeks to provide easier access to decisions and outcomes. No additional cost will be imposed on applicants who are already engaging with the occupational therapist in the community or hospital setting. As such, applicants get the recommendations from professionals who are registered and tax compliant. The proposed legislation is therefore above board and in keeping with the current system and seeks simply to create efficiencies.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.