There are a number of options currently available to assist lower income households and elderly persons, in particular, to secure necessary improvement works to their houses including the provision of heating systems. These include the task force on special housing aid for the elderly, the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes, the local authority house improvement loan scheme and the improvement works in lieu of local authority housing scheme.
The task force on special housing aid for the elderly provides funding to the health boards to undertake necessary basic repairs and improvements to the houses of elderly persons. In the interests of elderly persons, the scheme has, since its inception, been administered with a minimum of formality and it has been an objective to avoid formal procedural and other requirements. Works are, in appropriate circumstances, carried out at no cost to the applicant. The terms of the scheme were extended last year to include, where appropriate, the provision of heating systems. I allocated record funding of £8.658 million to the task force in 2001.
I have also introduced significant improvements to the terms and conditions of the disabled persons and essential repairs grant schemes. The effective maximum grant available under the disabled persons grant scheme was increased from £8,000 to £16,000 with the grant covering up to 90% of the approved cost of the works compared to two thirds previously. In addition, I have increased the maximum grant available under the essential repairs grant from £1,800 to £7,500. These improvements have allowed local authorities and health boards to extend the type of work that can be undertaken in individual cases, including the provision of heating systems.
The management, maintenance and improvement of existing local authority dwellings, including the installation of central heating, is the responsibility of local authorities to be defrayed from their own resources. However, where capital funding is provided under the remedial works scheme to assist authorities to carry out major essential works to designated estates, the installation of central heating in dwellings may form part of the works undertaken. In addition to the funding available under the remedial works scheme, local authorities may seek my Department's approval for the use of internal capital receipts which are surplus to the requirements of their local authority housing programme and remedial works scheme, for improvement works such as the provision of central heating to their dwellings. A number of local authorities have used, and continue to use, this approach to install central heating in their rented dwellings.