I propose to take Questions Nos. 294 and 295 together.
A review of the disabled persons grant scheme is currently being finalised in my Department. On its completion, it will be possible 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 and essential repairs grant schemes is a matter for individual local authorities. The framework for the operation of the schemes is laid down in statutory regulations and, as far as practicable, is designed to give an appropriate degree of flexibility to local authorities with regard to their administration. It is a matter for the authorities to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the schemes in their areas from within the allocations notified to them for this purpose by the Department and to manage the operation of the schemes within these allocations.
The 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 provision of adequate amounts from their own estimates to meet their one third contribution is entirely a matter for the local authorities and one in which my Department has no direct function.
Capital allocations totalling €65 million for expenditure in 2004 on the disabled persons and essential repairs grants were notified to local authorities on 20 May. They were advised to notify my Department if their allocation was either inadequate or surplus to their requirements, in order to facilitate the reallocation of funds to obtain optimum effectiveness from the funding available. Additional allocations totalling some €5.9 million were made to a number of local authorities on 9 September on foot of requests for increased allocations received from the authorities involved.
While it is open to a local authority to seek a higher allocation in the event of increased demand, an increased capital allocation would not, of itself, allow increased expenditure without a corresponding revision of the authority's own provision for expenditure on the scheme.