THOUSANDS of elderly people blocked from accessing a vital government elderly person security scheme “suspended” as part of the budget will receive the care they need from September, it has been confirmed.
As part of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s latest budget attempt this month, the Department of Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs was asked to “temporarily suspend” its Community Support for Older People programme in an attempt to slash Exchequer spending.
The scheme, which has been in place since 1996, provides monitored personal security alarms, door locks, home-help services, meals on wheels, and security lighting to vulnerable people every year, with more than 80,000 benefiting from the service since it was introduced.
The department was heavily criticised by elderly support groups when it emerged that the vital project — which has cost more than e5 million since the start of 2008 — would be withdrawn for any new applicants from the start of this month, with claims that the safety and lives of elderly people could be put at risk by the measure.
However, in an apparent back-track on the initial announcement, Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Éamon Ó Cuív and Junior Minister John Curran yesterday told representatives of Age Action Ireland, St Vincent de Paul, Muintir na Tíre, Irish Rural Link and the Senior Citizen Parliament that a streamlined version of the scheme would be reinstated in September after a “review” of its current spending levels.
As part of the review, the department has “temporarily suspended” any new applicants seeking to benefit from the scheme, with the views of relevant interest groups being sought in an attempt to streamline the project’s expenses.
Age Action Ireland had criticised the initial move as an unacceptable attack on vulnerable elderly people, adding that local TDs should be pressured into ensuring the move was not pushed through.
However, the group’s spokesperson said the new measure was an important acknowledgement of what the service provides to thousands of elderly people every year.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved