There has been a surge in the number of older people granted personal security alarms under a Government scheme — even though there has been an underspend in recent years of the budget available for the devices.
A report by Pobal, the intermediary body for programmes funded by the Government and the EU, shows that last year 7,301 individuals over the age of 65 were approved under the Seniors Alert Scheme (SAS) and that 7,219 alarms were installed.
According to the Seniors Alert Scheme Progress Report, published in recent weeks by Pobal, €1,263,789.41 was paid to suppliers for equipment and installation costs and as of the end of 2016, a total of 568 organisations had been approved to apply for SAS supports on behalf of participants.
The progress report refers to the last quarter of 2015 and all of last year, covering the period since Pobal took on the running of the scheme.
Figures released earlier this year to Tipperary-based Independent TD Mattie McGrath showed in 2016, of the €2.6m allocated for the scheme, just €1.8m was drawn down.
There had been similar underspend in preceding years, prompting minister of state for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring to get his department to examine how to improve promotion of the scheme.
The provision of personal alarm devices has come to fore following recent high profile court cases involving attacks against vulnerable elderly people.
According to the Pobal report, 67% of all SAS participants are female, half of all participants are over the age of 80, and 68% of participants live alone.
More than half of all participants cited an existing health concern as one of the reasons for applying to the SAS, while 13% of participants said ‘fear of crime’ was a reason for applying to the scheme. According to the report: “This figure was highest in rural areas and among participants who were living alone.”
The vast majority (80%) of equipment types requested were pendants and bases connected to a landline.
There has been an increased rate of SAS device provision. The report shows that 1,321 participants were approved in the last quarter of 2015 while last year a total of 7,301 were approved.
Similarly, while 686 installations were completed in the last quarter of 2015, in the whole of last year 7,219 installations were completed. In the same period 690 participants left, cancelled or were unsuccessful in their application.
Dublin, Cork, and Tipperary were the counties with the highest number of applications approved.
However, despite the increase in the number of people getting devices, the scheme still represents just 1% of Ireland’s over-65 population and 17% of Ireland’s over-85 population.
According to the report: “The actual share of eligible persons covered nationally is higher than 1%. However, there is no sufficient data on individuals who had alarms installed prior to the scheme transferring to Pobal.
“Almost one in five queries received in the final three months of 2016 was about new applicants. This implies that there is still a large un-serviced population interested in receiving coverage.
“Further work is required to ensure that information about the scheme is available to eligible individuals and the groups administering the scheme locally.”
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