I propose to take Questions Nos. 695, 696 and 699 together.
The Government's Housing Policy Statement, Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, published in 2007, reflects the commitment in Towards 2016 to develop a national housing strategy for people with a disability which will give a broad framework to inform the future development of local authority Housing Action Plans. Work has commenced on the development of this strategy, which is being progressed by a National Advisory Group under the aegis of the Housing Forum, headed by my Department and involving the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, social partners and other relevant stakeholders including the National Disability Authority. The strategy, which will be developed by end 2009, will support the provision of tailored housing and housing supports for people with a disability, and will have particular regard to adults with significant disabilities and people who experience mental health issues. It will be designed to reflect the diverse housing needs of people with a disability and ensure that the appropriate structures and supports, to deliver effectively on these needs, are in place.
In terms of assisting with works to provide additional or adapted accommodation, a new Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability was introduced with effect from 1 November 2007. Under the new scheme, the grant has increased from €20,320 to an effective maximum grant of €30,000, which may now cover up to 95% of the cost of the works, compared to 90% previously. In addition, it is open to persons with a disability to apply for affordable housing, subject to meeting the eligibility criteria, principally relating to income, and demonstrating the financial capacity to service the mortgage costs involved.
Under the framework of Delivering Homes, Sustaining Communities, protocols for inter-agency co-operation will be developed with regard to all special needs housing where there is a care dimension to the supports required. Specifically, in the area of housing for people with a disability, protocols are being developed to deal with cooperation between the HSE and housing authorities in order to provide a strategic framework for inter agency cooperation at local level.
My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, the HSE and local authorities, has developed a protocol governing liaison between the HSE and housing authorities on the assessment of the individual accommodation needs of people with a disability, who have been assessed under Part 2 of the Disability Act, 2005 and identified as being likely to require housing support. This protocol, which has been in operation since July 2007, ensures that there is a smooth and transparent system to facilitate referral between the HSE and housing authorities in these cases.
A further protocol to govern liaison between the HSE and housing authorities in relation to a strategic assessment of the nature and extent of local housing needs of people with a disability will be developed in the context of the housing strategy for people with a disability. This protocol will improve the capturing of data in relation to the housing needs of people with a disability.