Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said the decision by the Minister of State for Community and Local Government Catherine Byrne to slash the funding provided by her Department to the Senior Alert Scheme is disgraceful and beggars belief. Deputy McGrath was speaking after the cut was confirmed to him in a Parliamentary Question he put to the Minister following an earlier request to expand the provision of the Scheme:
“The allocated funding for the Senior Alert scheme in 2016 was €2.6 million. In 2017 that number has been reduced to €2.3 million, a cut of €300,000.
What is equally galling however is that the funding for this year is actually the lowest it has been since 2012 when the funding allocation stood at €2.35 million.
With a growing elderly population I would have thought that funding would at least remain the same.
Why does this Minister think that she can implement such deeply damaging cuts to a vitally important Scheme like this?
We have seen, especially here in Tipperary, the horrific attacks that elderly people are being subjected too and the fear that is present in some communities as they live in dread of marauding gangs or vicious thugs who care nothing for ordinary human decency.
The Minister in her reply also tells me that the Scheme is demand led, and that funding matches the demand. The real question however is why the Department is doing so little to highlight and encourage take up of the Alert Scheme?
Why is there no programme or information awareness campaigns to notify elderly people of the services they are entitled to under the Scheme, such as the pendant alarms?
Surely something as simple as providing an information document to every pensioner who goes to collect their pension would greatly improve demand for the Scheme?
Instead we are being told that a new version of the Seniors Alert Scheme will be launched in September 2017 and that the new design is “currently under consideration.”
These kinds of cuts do nothing to inspire confidence or a sense of security in communities and families who quite literally rely on elements of the Scheme like the pendant alarms for their physical safety and peace of mind.
Minister Byrne would do well to think of that the next time she sanctions such a drastic funding reduction,” concluded Deputy McGrath.