I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 113 together.
This time last year I signalled my intention to review the Suite of Grants for Older People and People with a Disability in order to target the grants at those in greatest need, spread the available resources as widely as possible and ensure greater fairness in their operation. The changes were made on foot of the recommendations of a review group, established last year by my Department, to examine the terms and conditions governing the schemes. Membership of the group included members of both the County and City Managers’ Association (CCMA), the Housing Practitioner Network, Local Authority housing personnel and officials from my Department. Consultations were held with organisations working with older people and people with a disability, including the Irish Wheelchair Association, ALONE, HSE, Ataxia Ireland, the Irish Society for Autism and the National Disability Authority.
There has been no change to the maximum grant available under the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability which remains at €30,000 or the Mobility Aids Grant which remains at €6,000. In the case of the Housing Aid for Older People, the maximum grant has been reduced from €10,500 to €8,000. It should be noted that the average grant paid under this scheme in 2011, 2012 and 2013 was €4,162, €4,106 and €3,995 respectively, well below the maximum available. The age limit for eligibility has been increased from 60 to 66 years. However, a lower age limit may apply at the discretion of the local authority in certain cases.
Changes have also been made with regard to the assessment of means of applicants. To bring it into line with the means assessment for applicants for social housing, all household members’ income, with certain exceptions, will be included in the assessment of means. The level of income beyond which no grant is payable has been reduced from €65,000 to €60,000. In the case of an applicant where a household member is aged under 65, there is no impact on grant eligibility. However, where appropriate their income will be taken into account in accessing household income.
I have increased the level of funding available for the grant schemes by 12% in 2014 to €38.4 million. Every local authority has increased funding compared to 2013. I expect an additional 800 households will benefit under the schemes in 2014.