Thursday, 22 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Mr. J. Walsh asked the Minister for Social Welfare the consideration, if any, he has given to offering some direct assistance towards the cost of burglar alarm systems for old age pensioners living alone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4036/96]
55. Dr. Moffatt asked the Minister for Social Welfare the terms of reference of the task force on security for the elderly; the members of the task force; the proposed completion date of the work on the task force; the proposed publication date; the implementation date of proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4031/96]
The issue of what more might be done to enhance the security of the elderly in the light of the recent attacks has been under consideration in my Department. I decided to establish a task force  in response to an ICTU pre-budget submission seeking assistance for elderly people with regard to their security.
Deputies will be aware that the Minister for Finance, in his Budget Statement, provided for tax relief for the purchase cost of alarm systems for persons aged 65 and over living alone. I announced in this House on Wednesday, 24 January, that I was setting up this task force to examine the situation of persons, mainly those receiving social welfare pensions, who could not avail of the tax allowance initiative announced by the Minister for Finance because their incomes were below the relevant tax exemption limits. I also indicated then that I had asked for it to report by the end of February.
The task force members are drawn from various Government Departments and organisations which have experience and expertise in this area. The full membership was given in response to written parliamentary questions on 1 February 1996.
I look forward to the report of the task force at the end of the month and I can assure the Deputies that its recommendations will receive full and sympathetic consideration at the earliest practicable date.
Mr. J. Walsh: Does the Minister agree that the tax concession in the budget will not help people in this situation to any great extent? Elderly people living alone in rural areas, where there is so much disquiet, are looking for an actual contribution towards the cost. I understand that this equipment costs in the region of £250. I encourage the Minister to make a contribution towards that cost.
Proinsias De Rossa: The Deputy is wrong to claim that the tax exemption provided by the Minister for Finance will not provide any assistance — it will assist those elderly people who have a tax liability. The task force was established to look at the situation of those who are not in a position to avail of the tax exemption and to bring forward  recommendations. I expect to have those recommendations by the end of this month and I will immediately bring them forward to Government for consideration.
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