APPLICANTS under the Housing Aid for Older People grant scheme could now face a five year wait for a decision after proposals to suspend the scheme for new applications for 12 months were rejected by Offaly County councillors.
Dermot Mahon, SEO Housing, recommended the suspension of applications under the Housing Aid for Older people scheme for one year. He explained that the scheme would then be reviewed after 12 months. However, following Monday’s meeting of Offaly County Council, members rejected the proposal and the scheme is to remain open to new applications.
According to the SEO, if the County Council continued to accept applications it would take five years to get through them. “And, to expect people to wait five years, is unreasonable. I would prefer to tell people the scheme has been suspended.”
Cllr Molly Buckley explained that this issue was discussed at the SPC meeting recently and it was decided that suspending the scheme would allow more people to more work done. “It is fair to people and will ensure that people, who need to get work done will get the work done.”
Cllr Peter Ormond stated that he didn’t know if the suspension of the grant scheme was a ‘real cost saver’.
Cllr Connie Hanniffy felt that a “very bad message was been sent out here today” and believed that if the scheme was suspended that it may never be re-instated. “I am very disturbed that this is the road that we are going. We have to give a little consideration of people that are depending on us. We should be looking at other means of topping up the scheme, instead of suspending it.”
Cllr Tommy McKeigue also voiced his disappointment at the proposal. “I’m ashamed. If we can’t do anything for elderly people, I have failed as a councillor.”
Mr Pat Gallagher, County Manager, pointed out that it was the county councillors, who had requested the scheme be reviewed late last year. “We can leave it as is and have a smaller number of successful applications.”
He admitted it “wasn’t a nice thing to do” having to suspend the scheme but he urged the councillors to look at the “clear reality” that the Council have less money to spend.
Sean Murray, Director of Services, explained either the Council reduce the number of applications or reduce the amount of money being provided to maximise the spend.
Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick said there was an onus on the council to ‘serve the people out there’. He suggested going back to the HSE. “It will be a sad day when we can’t care for our elderly.”
Cllr Dervill Dolan stressed the need to give applicants the opportunity to at least apply.
Cllr Nichola Hogan also added her opposition to the scheme’s suspension. Following the debate, Cathaoirleach Danny Owens concluded that the scheme wouldn’t be suspended in light of the councillors’ views.