My Department has, since 1996, operated the scheme of community support for older people, the purpose of which is to provide funding for initiatives to improve the security and social support of vulnerable older people. This funding is provided by way of grant aid to voluntary groups and organisations which have undertaken to identify those elderly people in need of assistance under the scheme. Since its commencement, a total of £22 million has been allocated to the scheme, which to the end of 2000 has assisted some 80,482 individuals. I am anxious to ensure that this scheme continues to address the security needs of the most vulnerable older people in our society.
Under the terms of the scheme grant aid is available towards the purchase and/or installation cost of: small-scale physical security equipment such as strengthening of doors and windows, window locks, door chains and locks and security lighting; and socially-monitored alarm systems, such as the "pendant" alarm system which is operated via the telephone and is worn around the neck or wrist.
To qualify for assistance under the scheme, people aged 65 or over must be living alone or be living in households made up exclusively of older people, or of older people who are dependent and vulnerable and be unable to install or purchase the equipment covered by the scheme themselves.
Funding is not available under the scheme for the replacement of socially monitored alarms as raised in the Deputy's question.
A review of the scheme was completed in April 1999 and any plans to amend the shceme will be considered in a budgetary context.