Thursday, 19 July 2012
I thank the Cathaoirleach for allowing me to raise the need to support householders in the Cork area who were victims of flooding almost three weeks ago. Some of those whose homes were damaged did not have insurance, although others did. In all cases, people will find it difficult to get insurance following this episode of flooding. Even if they can get insurance, it will come at a premium. The Minister for Social Protection announced that a previous humanitarian assistance scheme, which was put in place in 2010, will be extended. I would like the Minister of State to clarify who will be eligible for the scheme on this occasion. Some €10 million was allocated following flooding in Monaghan and Dublin, but just €788,000 of it was applied for. I know from my experience of dealing with people who were affected by the 2009 Cork floods that these schemes can be quite onerous. I accept that many people, including those with insurance, are not eligible. Many people found that the previous scheme was means tested. I suppose it is right that means are considered. If one has a small sum of money in one's bank account - one might be saving for a holiday - that will be considered. Very few people were eligible for the previous scheme. I would like the Minister of State to spell out who will be eligible for this scheme. How does he envisage that it will be administered? What level of means will be deemed to make one's application under the scheme ineligible?
I thank Senator Clune for raising this matter. The Government recognises the plight and devastation that the recent floods brought to homes and families in various parts of Cork. I have significant experience of similar flooding in my own area of east Galway. In recognition of the severity of the situation, the Government has announced the extension of the humanitarian assistance scheme to assist the affected householders. This scheme is similar to those which were established in the wake of the Dublin flooding of 2011 and the Galway flooding of 2009. This scheme, which is means tested, provides emergency financial assistance to households that are not in a position to meet the cost of essential needs in the period immediately following flooding. The aim of the scheme is to provide financial support to people who have suffered damage to their homes. The intention is to provide hardship alleviation, as opposed to full compensation. Repairs for structural damage caused as a result of flooding can also be considered under the scheme.
Humanitarian assistance does not cover risks that are covered by insurance policies, business or commercial losses, or loss or damage to private rented accommodation or local authority accommodation. The Government has not set a limit on the amount that can be paid to an individual household under the humanitarian assistance scheme. The level of payment will depend on the relative severity of the damage experienced and the ability of households to meet their costs. We will ensure the funding is appropriately targeted. All household income will be considered when entitlement to payment is being determined. In general, a single person with a gross income of €30,000 or less will receive 100% of the amount determined, as will a couple with a household income of up to €50,000 or less. The income level that is applicable to couple households also applies to lone-parent households. For each €1,000 of household income above these levels, the person will be required to make a personal contribution of 1% towards the cost. A further additional allowance of €10,000 per qualified child is applicable in these circumstances.
People seeking assistance under the humanitarian assistance scheme should contact their local representative of the Department of Social Protection. Those affected who are unable to attend their local clinics due to mobility issues or other difficulties can request house calls or make appointments with departmental staff. Full details of the scheme and application forms are available on the Department's website. It should be noted that officials in my Department are continuing to provide individuals affected by this flooding with exceptional and urgent needs payments to offset immediate needs; for example, assistance with the purchase of food, clothing, bedding and emergency accommodation needs. To date, 31 individual families in the affected areas have received payments totalling approximately €16,000. The full extent of damage will only be apparent as houses fully dry out and as affected families return to live full-time in their properties. Accordingly, the Department expects to continue to receive applications over the coming weeks.