Thursday, 30 September 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
63. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the severe difficulties created for elderly persons and those with disability due to the inability of local authorities to meet demands for payments under the disabled person’s grant; if he will provide additional funding for councils in order to allow them to meet this urgent need; if he will consider placing the scheme on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22587/04]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): The administration of the disabled persons grant scheme is a matter for individual local authorities. The framework for the operation of the scheme is already laid down in statutory regulations and, as far as practicable, is designed to give an appropriate degree of flexibility to local authorities in the operation of the scheme. My Department recoups to local authorities two thirds of their expenditure on the payment of individual grants and it is the responsibility of the authorities to fund their one third contribution from their own resources from amounts provided for that purpose in their annual estimates of expenditure.
Capital allocations totalling €65 million for expenditure on disabled persons and essential repairs grants in 2004 were notified to local authorities on 20 May last. Authorities were advised to notify my Department if their allocation was either inadequate or surplus to their requirements, in order to facilitate the reallocation of funds to obtain optimum effectiveness from the funding available. Additional allocations totalling some €5.9 million were made to a number of local authorities on 9 September on foot of requests for increased allocations received from the authorities involved. While it is open to a local authority to seek a higher allocation in the event of increased demand, an increased capital allocation would not, of itself, allow increased expenditure by the authority without a corresponding revision of the authority’s own provision for expenditure on the scheme.
The improvements which have been made in recent years to the amount of the disabled persons grant, and the level of recoupment available, have resulted in a significant increase in levels of demand, with expenditure on the scheme increasing from €13 million for 2,455 grants in 1998 to €50 million for 5,739 grants in 2003. In line with this very significant increase in my Department’s capital provision for the scheme, recoupment costs have also increased from €6.3 million for 2,512 grants in 1998 to almost €37.5 million for 6,153 grants in 2003. In that time the maximum grant has doubled from €10,158 to €20,320. These very significant increases in the levels of funding provided are clear indication of the Government’s commitment to the disabled persons grant scheme.
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