Dáil debates

Wednesday, 4 October 2006


Housing Aid for the Elderly.

9:00 pm

Photo of Paul Connaughton  SnrPaul Connaughton Snr (Galway East, Fine Gael)

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this matter, which is irritating. The Health Service Executive, western region, for some unexplained reason has not approved applications under the housing for the elderly scheme over the past two years. What is going on is an absolute disgrace. I do not know whether there is a problem at HSE level or whether the HSE is not getting sufficient money from the Government. I wish to place on record the standard letter which has been sent five times over the past two years to every constituent on behalf of whom I make representations:

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 28 August 2006 on behalf of [a named person]... The Special Housing Aid for the Elderly Scheme has proven to be an extremely popular service over recent years and we have been able to assist many elderly people in essential maintenance work in their homes. Consequently, there is a year round significant demand for assistance for various works to be carried out. This inevitably places periodic pressures on our capacity to respond to each application, as we would normally wish. However, we are endeavouring to respond to all applicants as early as possible and therefore, we will be contacting [a named person] again, regarding her application.

Over two years, five such letters have been sent. What is the Government doing to the elderly? I have two copies of these letters, one of which was sent to a 79 year old woman. To expect a 79 year old to wait two years for a letter of approval is similar to asking a person aged 50 to wait ten or 20 years. If the Government and the HSE would like to scrap the scheme, they should come out and say so and should not leave hundreds of vulnerable people all over Ireland waiting for a reply regarding home improvements. If this is the best we can do as a caring society given the money at our disposal throughout the economy, we might as well pack up our camp and walk away.

Is it Government and HSE policy to scrap the scheme altogether? If so, the Minister of State should come out and say that and allow some other body, such as the local authority, to do something about it. However, the Government should not try this racket with so many vulnerable people. Is the Minister of State aware that this has been a wonderful scheme for many years under all Governments? No magic is involved. A few thousand euro is invested and supplemented by a few hundred euro by the elderly people themselves to carry out essential repairs. They can then live out the rest of their days in reasonable dignity where they want to live. For every €1 million euro invested in this scheme, people are being given the opportunity to stay at home and they do not have to move to nursing homes. Could there be anything more simple or straightforward than that? The HSE and the Government have ensured elderly people have been left in the dark over the past two years.

I hope, following this debate, that a fuse will be lit and that at least a small amount of decency will be shown. Those involved will say that as they are investing money, they need to see improvements in the next couple of months or they will pull out of the scheme altogether. The Government should at least let people know where they stand. If this is a yardstick by which we determine the attitude to the elderly in this country, God help them.


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