Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (24)

Arthur Morgan

Question:

153 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is his intention to increase the disabled persons' housing grant to cover 100% of the cost of approved building costs on the basis of need; the measures he intends to take to address the hardships caused by the fact that, due to underfunding of local authorities, applicants for the disabled persons' housing grant have to wait an inordinately long period of time before receiving their grant; when the review of the disabled persons' housing grant which was commenced by his Department in March 2003 will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2913/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

A review of the disabled persons' grant scheme is being finalised in my Department at present. On its completion, I will be in a position to determine the changes, if any, required to the regulations governing the scheme to ensure that the funding available is directed at those persons in greatest need of such assistance.

The administration of the disabled persons' grant scheme is a matter for individual local authorities. The framework for the operation of the scheme is laid down in statutory regulations and, as far as practicable, is designed to give an appropriate degree of flexibility to local authorities. It is a matter for the authorities to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the scheme in their areas from within the allocations notified to them for that purpose and to manage the operation of the scheme within those allocations. My Department recoups to local authorities two thirds of their expenditure on the payment of individual grants, and it is the responsibility of the authorities to fund their one third contribution from their own resources from amounts provided for that purpose in their annual estimates of expenditure.

The improvements which have been made in recent years to the amount of the disabled persons' grant and the level of recoupment available have resulted in a significant increase in levels of demand, with expenditure on the scheme increasing from €13 million for 2,455 grants in 1998 to €52.6 million for 5,932 grants in 2002. In line with that very significant increase in my Department's capital provision for the scheme, recoupment costs have also increased from €6.3 million for 2,512 grants in 1998 to almost €31.5 million for 5,070 grants in 2002. In that time the maximum grant has doubled from €10,158 to €20,320. Those very significant increases in the levels of funding provided are a clear indication of the Government's commitment to the disabled persons' grant scheme.