Fears for victims as €8.4m in flood aid unclaimed

THE Government turned down a charity’s request for extra funding to help flood victims despite the fact that almost €8.4 million of a €10m aid package went unclaimed.

And there are no plans to change the humanitarian assistance scheme, sparking fears that the €10m announced fund for Dublin’s flood victims will not get to those who need it most.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has called for a complete overhaul of the means-tested system, which it claims is too rigid.

An investigation by the Irish Examiner found just €1.6m of the €10m state aid package announced after the massive November 2009 floods was drawn down.

The means-tested fund was designed to provide financial assistance to eligible households who had suffered major flood damage to their homes.

However, figures from the Department of Social Protection show that:

* In Cork city, which bore the brunt of the flood damage, just 501 households or individuals drew down a combined total of just €411,051.

* In Galway, 338 households or individuals drew down €473,667.

* A total of €331,399 was paid out to 102 households in Clare.

* 86 households in Westmeath were given just over €126,000.

* The average payment per household was €1,310.

Brendan Dempsey, SVP’s Munster regional president, said that in Cork city, the society estimates that flood victims need at least another €1.5m to help them cope, just days before the second anniversary of the disaster.

“I wrote to [Social Protection] Minister Joan Burton last May and outlined to her that just €1.6m was paid out of the fund.

“I asked for the extra money from the unclaimed fund but I got a reply from the department in August saying no.

“The national system is too inflexible and needs to be overhauled. We know of a lot of people who will spend the next 20 years paying off loans they had to get to bridge the gap between what their insurance companies paid out, and what builders actually charged for repair works,” said Mr Dempsey.

Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy, who was lord mayor during Cork’s flood crisis, also called for an overhaul.

He said that while those who applied for the aid received average payouts of just over €1,200, dozens more were put off from applying by the red tape and bureaucracy. “From our experience, people found it difficult to access this national funding quickly. We should give the people who work on the ground more responsibility in such crises.”

But the Department of Social Protection defended the management of the 2009 fund and said the money paid out was based on the need presented. It also said there were no plans to change the system following the announcement of the Dublin flood fund.

Aid claimed

* Galway — €473,667

* Cork — €411,051

* Clare — €331,399

* Westmeath — €126,088

* Tipperary — €95,579

* Kildare — €52,883

*Roscommon — €47,445

* Wicklow — €28,454

* Limerick — €20,384

* Carlow — €5,171

* Other — €64,695 TOTAL — €1,656,816

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