Carers face further distress following Government cuts to housing adaptation and mobility grants

Family carers across the country have been targeted once again with further cuts announced today to the Housing Adaptation Grant for people with a disability, Housing Aid for Older People and the Mobility Aid grants.

Carers learned this morning that changes to the grants will be implemented immediately and may affect many of the 187,112 family carers who are in receipt of the family carers allowance, seeking to make their homes safe to enable their loved ones to be cared for at home.

The announcement sets out new criteria for the eligibility of the grants leaving many family carers ineligible.

From now on applicants seeking the Housing Aid Grant for Older People must be over the age of 66 – where previously applicants needed to be 60 years of age. Also from today, the income of all household members is to be considered in means assessment for grants – up until now only the income of the applicant and the spouse was assessed. Also under the Housing Adaptation and Housing Aid Schemes, households in the lowest income band with an income of €30,000 or less will only receive 95% of the costs and not 100% as was previously the case. The upper income limit to be eligible for both schemes has been reduced by €5,000 to €60,000 and finally applicants for grants must also prove they have paid their property tax.

Catherine Cox, Communications Manager at the Carers Association says, “this is yet another huge blow to family carers who have already suffered in recent times with cuts to the Respite Care Grant. At a time when there are already huge demands on family carers, this revelation is devastating news for those who are seeking grants. Already family carers are saving the state over four billion euro every year by caring for their loved ones at home. People who are now ineligible for these grants may now have to take the difficult decision to have their loved ones cared for by the state simply because they cannot afford to have their homes modified to keep them there safely.

“Minister Jan O’ Sullivan has said that these cuts are not about saving money but ‘ensuring the grants are made to the maximum number of people that need them most.’ She claims that they have increased the funding for this year by €3million and will help more people stay at home. However, I fail to see how these cuts illustrate what she has stated. Spending on these grants has almost halved over the past three years from €79million in 2010 to €35million in 2013. They come on top of increasing restrictions on older people’s access to the Fair Deal nursing home beds, the abolition of their telephone allowance and cuts to the home-care budgets. The cuts are completely at odds with the Dept of Health’s policy to have less people in hospitals and institutions and care for them at home. Rather than keeping people at home, it will force them into already overcrowded A&E departments.”

“We believe it is timely for the Government to consider a statutory entitlement for carers to homecare community services, which would be of huge assistance to carers and their dependents and be in keeping with the policy to keep people out of hospital,” concluded Ms Cox.