I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 81 together.
Following the Government decision of 30 November 2021 in respect of the enhanced defective concrete blocks grant scheme, the Government approved the remediation of dwellings damaged by the use of defective concrete blocks Bill 2022 on 21 June and I intend to progress the legislation before the end of term in order to ensure we can have the scheme ready for homeowners to access by the end of the year. There are hearings today that the Oireachtas joint committee will hold with residents affected, along with experts who have fed into this highly significant work. I certainly look forward to listening to those contributions.
It is important that the Bill will allow us to progress on key decisions made by the Government last November, including a 100% grant, to an overall maximum grant amount payable to an applicant under the scheme in the sum of €420,000, up from €247,500. There is the removal of the financial barrier to scheme entry, a feature of the current scheme, thereby reducing the cost for homeowners from up to €7,000 to an estimated €500 or €700, which will be recoupable under the scheme once the applications are approved. We have already been issuing refunds of those payments that have been made. Counties Clare and Limerick will be included in the enhanced scheme upon commencement and further local authority areas can be added as the necessary evidence supports inclusion.
To get to the point of the question, the decision made by the Government last November called for a number of reviews to be completed, which are very important. The scheme will be with us for ten or 15 years. This included a review of the IS 465:2018 standard and the consideration of the issue of other potentially deleterious material, such as pyrrhotite and the impact, if any, on foundations. I am acutely aware of homeowners' concerns in this regard, which is why I have asked the NSAI to review IS 465 and carry out all necessary research as a matter of priority. I briefed Deputy Ó Broin informally on this earlier. It is currently understood that foundations are not impacted and there is currently no evidence to support claims they are. However, when the Bill is published, if there are issues with foundations, we will revisit the scheme and amend the legislation accordingly. That is very important.
I wish to confirm that once the necessary review has been concluded and any revised standard is published, the defective concrete blocks grant scheme will be reviewed at that point, having regard to any amended standard. We need to conclude the research being done independently of me and we need scientific data to support this work. If the standard at that point provides for the inclusion of foundations, the Bill provides that I will be able to make regulations to provide for a new remediation option. That will be seen later today. If foundations in some homes are found to be impacted, we will not be slow to act. I have kept my word heretofore in greatly enhancing the scheme and putting much more resources behind it. There is a 40-year guarantee as opposed to a 20-year guarantee and a second grant option. The alternative to this approach would be to wait until the NSAI did the work and to pause the scheme.
The Deputy will see very clearly in the legislation that we will be allowing for further regulations once the evidence comes back. It is being done scientifically and independent of me. If there is a problem with foundations then, we will amend the scheme by regulation and include a relevant provision in the scheme. Not every house will be affected and there will be homes where other materials have not been found in the infill. We can proceed with a number of them and we should do that. We must get people's homes and lives back on track. I am absolutely committed to doing that.