ALONE, the charity supporting older people wants €84.5m a year to be provided for home adaptation grants and an additional 122,000 units of housing for older people over the next 10 years.
In a report entitled Housing Choices For Older People in Ireland – Time for Action, ALONE calls for a greater spectrum of housing for older people.
According to the organisation, 25% of people over 55 are experiencing problems with housing maintenance while 20% have housing facility problems.
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said, “There is a pressing need for change as we expect the population of over 60s in Ireland to increase to over 1 million by 2021, and 1.3 million by 2031.
“If the numbers of older people are increasing, services and housing providers need to increase to match it.”
Moynihan believes it is vitally important to provide older people with a choice in housing to allow them to age in comfortable surroundings. Research has shown that funding housing with support options, through adaptation grants etc, will save the government money and protect the independence of the older person.
Ironically councillors in Clare recently refused to support a proposal to speed up the delivery of three grant schemes specifically aimed at older people, including housing adaptation grants.
Independent councillor Gerry Flynn, who is also chairman of the Social Development SPC which included Housing, pointed out that the council has carried over 290 applications from 217.
At present, the council is dealing with 365 applications but just €700,000 remains from the 2018 budget of €2,141,596. According to an official, the council will be informing applicants that waiting time for approvals will extend into 2019.
Cllr Flynn said this is unacceptable and he called for extra staff and resources to remedy this situation. He also wants an advocacy officer appointed to liaise with councillors following up on grant applications.
In its response, the council stated that “the team processing grant applications is adequately resourced to discharge the available budget”.
It adds that the volume of grant applications continues to grow and “will continue to do so in light of an ageing population” but the budget is not increasing at the same rate.
Cllr Flynn said that this is one of the most important schemes operated by Clare County Council as it enables older people to improve their homes and enables those with disabilities to remain in their home instead of being institutionalised.
His proposal was not supported with some councillors, led by Leas-Cathaoirleach Alan O’Callaghan, who implied that it somehow impugned council staff working on these schemes. A number of other councillors agreed with this argument including Joe Cooney, John Crowe and Pat McMahon.
Cllr Flynn said, “I cannot believe what I am hearing, that my colleagues are against extra funding and extra staff in this department to process these grants more efficiently. These grants are aimed at the most vulnerable people in society.”
The council’s chief executive Pat Dowling pointed out that the priority for those working in the social development area is to deal with over 1,000 on the housing waiting list.”
Mr Dowling acknowledged that the grants in question are an important social intervention by local authorities and he will have a look at the matter so as to increase the response rate.
“I know for a fact that for elderly people living alone and people with disabilities, these grants are very important. Particularly that they are paid and the works are done when people actually need them.
“I can’t commit to appointing more staff for that scheme but I am committed to these schemes but the priorities in housing are for more units, more affordable houses and responding to the homelessness issue,” said Mr Dowling.