A TD whose office was flooded over Christmas has hit out at the “cruel” means-testing of a humanitarian scheme designed to help families devastated by floods.
Although €10m has been allocated to the Department of Social Protection’s Humanitarian Assistance Scheme, the fund is still means tested with households earning over €70,000 being curtailed in the amount they receive.
Families can receive aid to ensure they have bedding, fuel, and food in the immediate aftermath of flooding but can also apply for help with replacing white goods and repairs in the longer-term under the scheme.
Fine Gael’s Jim Daly called for an end to means-testing of the scheme which has so far paid out around €235,000 to 270 households to help with buying food, clothing and providing emergency accommodation to those who have been left homeless by flooding.
He told an Oireachtas Committee: “It’s very hard to explain what it’s like if your home is flooded.
“It’s just the most awful thing to come across — to see their belongings, their prized possessions, their photographs everything just destroyed.
“My office flooded over Christmas and I spent New Year’s Eve, now it was only my constituency office, brushing literally human faeces out of the office floor for a couple of hours and it is just the most awful thing, the smell that goes on and lingers on forever.
“And that’s my office. It’s not my home, so you can imagine when it is somebody’s home and when they are devastated by that.
“When you have a scheme that is titled humanitarian assistance, to means test it afterwards goes against the grain of what it should be,” he said.
The deputy was supported by the majority of members at the Education and Social Protection committee, including senators Marie-Louise O’Donnell and Gerard Craughwell.
However, chair Joanna Tuffy argued against removing the means-testing system and said the current threshold is “generous”.
Appearing before the committee, Helen Faughnan of the Department of Social Protection said the programme is “demand-led” and she expects the amount paid out to increase significantly as people return to their homes and look at replacing furniture and other goods.
On the issue of means testing, she said that households with a combined income of €70,000 or less would be reimbursed the total needed to replace items and repair their home.
However, she said: “Over €70,000 you need a 1% contribution for each €1,000 that is over that. So let’s say €80,000 — we will pay 90% of what the needs are.”
Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea said he had come across a number of self-employed people who had managed to keep waters at bay from their homes but because of this they had missed out on work.
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