Age Action is concerned at the changes to the housing adaptation grant schemes for older people and people with a disability, which it believes will hit those on lowest incomes the hardest.
“While the intention of the review was to make the schemes more focused and targeted at those most in need, the impact is that changes to Housing Aid for Older People scheme mean that funds will be spread more thinly, with the poorest of older people now receiving a reduced maximum grant while also being expected for the first time to pay for a percentage of the work,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said.
The changes to the Housing Adaptation Grant for Older People, Housing Aid for Older People and the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme have come into effect since January 1, without any public announcement.
In addition to the reduction in the level of the maximum grant and changes to the income bands for the level of grant, Age Action is concerned that the age eligibility for the Housing Aid for Older People is being increased from 60 to 66 years old. This will result in people who previously could have applied for Housing Aid for Older People now being faced with waits of up to six years to be eligible for grant aid towards making their homes habitable – eg replacing heating systems/windows/doors.
The changes in eligibility for the schemes are significant and must be publicly communicated in a clear and concise manner. Age Action is concerned that the changes only came to light as a result of a document for local authority officials which was leaked to the media. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government needs to issue a comprehensive statement on the changes.
But Age Action fears that changes to these schemes, combined with changes to other supports for older people, will make it more difficult for older people and people with disabilities to remain living in their own homes, especially those are seriously ill or frail.
“Changes to nursing home bed funding contained in the HSE Service Plan will make it harder to get a nursing home bed in 2014,” Mr Timmins noted. “With community-based supports under severe pressure and now funding to help those who are struggling to adapt their homes being spread more thinly, it is getting harder and harder for the most vulnerable of older people to remain living in their own homes. When they can no longer cope, the result for many of these older people is admission to hospital or a nursing home.”
It has been the policy of successive governments since the late 1960s to support people to continuing living in their own homes for as long as possible. The latest changes to the housing adaptation grant schemes will not ease the plight of those currently struggling to remain at home.