Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Seniors Alert Scheme
61. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the options available to those seeking a personal monitored alarm through the seniors alert scheme that do not have access to a landline at their home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15467/19]
As the Minister knows, the senior alert scheme is very popular. We see increasing demand from individuals signing up for this when they reach the age of 65 or older. I increasingly come across cases in south Kildare where people are looking to join who do not have an existing landline. They seek a landline from Eir to link into this. We need to futureproof this. There seems to be a delay in Eir connecting these houses and I do not know if it is always financially viable for it to do so.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 63 together. My Department is responsible for the seniors alert scheme which encourages community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable them to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind. Funding is available under the scheme for the purchase by a registered community-based organisation of a personal alarm or pendant. Since I launched the new scheme in November 2017, demand has been very good. During 2018, over 19,200 applications were approved, with total expenditure of almost €7 million. The scheme’s allocation for 2019 is €2.3 million. As this is a demand-led scheme, it will be kept under constant review by my Department to ensure that adequate funding can be made available to meet the requirements of all qualifying applicants. There is provision under the Dormant Accounts Action Plan 2018, which also covers 2019, for funding to meet any additional demands on the scheme this year. Under the seniors alert scheme, applicants receive a free personal alarm, worn as a pendant or around the wrist. When pressed, it connects wirelessly to a base unit which is usually connected to a landline. If the applicant does not have a landline, the monitoring company can supply a SIM card for use in the base unit. There is a charge for this, usually about €5 per month. This equates to the telephone line rental that a user of the service with a landline would have to pay.
I thank the Minister for his response. I agree that the seniors alert scheme is a very important support for vulnerable older people to continue to live with independence and confidence in our rural communities. That is important because we all hope to live for longer and in better health. Being secure in our homes is key to that and this personal monitored alarm is a fantastic scheme. That SIM card is very important because I have come across cases where people were waiting for a landline option and there was a delay in it coming. I will look out for that option and check if it is a possibility for my constituents. The scheme itself is in high demand and that is only increasing. I think we will come across more houses in future that will join this scheme and will not necessarily have landlines, because there is less demand for landlines now than there was previously.
Like Deputy Heydon, I think this is a very good scheme for both rural and urban Ireland. People are living for longer and they want to stay at home. The only way that they can stay at home is if they know that they will be secure and safe in their home. There is not enough promotion of these brilliant schemes. The Minister has done a good job of announcing the financing in the last couple of years. There needs to be more promotion in this area. I might have heard the Minister wrongly with regard to the figures that he mentioned. Was there €7 million last year and €2 million already this year? He might clarify those figures for me. It would be a big difference if that was the case. We need to see more of these schemes around the country. In my part of the world, Muintir na Tíre and community alerts do a lot of work in that regard. They need to be sure that they will have funding to make sure that when they go to the community, people will be able to have one of these units to ensure that they are safe in the future.
This scheme has worked very well. The Deputies are correct that there was an underspend on the scheme for many years. In 2011, €2.46 million was allocated and 7,910 people applied for and were granted assistance under the scheme. In 2012, €2.52 million was allocated and 9,142 applied. In 2013, 10,597 people were assisted under the scheme. In 2014, there were 7,120. The money reduced in each year because there was no take-up but in 2016 and 2017, we had many difficulties around the country. I took this scheme on myself, brought in the Department officials, and got Pobal to run a campaign in local radio and local papers.
They administer the scheme on my behalf. The number rose from 7,301 in 2016 to 12,609 in 2017. In 2018, 19,228 people were connected to that scheme. The Deputy is correct. We engaged with the media. We simplified the scheme and explained how it works to people. Part of the problem in this country is that we make schemes too difficult. I met representatives from Pobal. I have done my best to make it easy to apply for all the schemes I have introduced. If we want people to be involved in schemes, we have to make it easier for them to apply. That is particularly the case with elderly people. I must compliment those who are running the scheme, especially Pobal. They are doing a superb job and it has worked very well.