Changes to Housing Grants Causing Grave Concern

Media Release by Disability Federation of Ireland

Dublin, 9th January 2014

The Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) today expressed concern at the changes announced in the media to the Housing Adaptation Grants Scheme.  The Department of the Environment introduced these changes without warning in a circular for immediate implementation which was issued to local authorities on New Year’s Eve.

Local authority housing grants comprise three different schemes: the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, Housing Aid for Older People, and the Mobility Aids Grant.  These schemes can be made available where changes need to be made to a home to make it suitable for a person with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability or mental health difficulty to live in.  The grant can assist in making changes and adaptations to a person’s home; for example, making it wheelchair-accessible, extending it to create more space, adding a ground-floor bathroom or toilet or a stair-lift.

John Dolan, CEO of DFI, said, “Housing adaptation grants are essential in ensuring that people with disabilities can live in their own homes and communities. However, these schemes are already subject to significant waiting lists, and have witnessed a massive €56 million loss in funding since 2010. The impact of the changes announced could be that households will break up as members with disabilities will struggle to live in their own homes and are therefore compelled to enter institutions. The Housing Adaptation Grants are the backbone of community support for people with disabilities: undermining this scheme is undermining the commitment to community living.”

He highlighted, “Much of Ireland’s existing housing lacks a ground floor with convertible bedroom and bathroom capacity.  Unless major adaptations are made, people with significant mobility impairments who live in such accommodation cannot stay there without hugely compromising their quality of life and that of other family members.  Their needs should not be neglected.”

He stated, “The changes in the income bands will have a huge impact on people’s ability to apply for the grants.  For instance, if you have an income of €41,000, you will now have to pay half the cost of the adaptation as opposed to 30% of the cost.  This is a difference between receiving a grant of €21,000 versus a grant of €15,000, and could force people with disabilities to continue living in accommodation that is not appropriate to their needs.  The further inclusion of the income of the entire household will also impede people’s ability to apply, considering, for example, the increase in the number of young adults continuing to live in the family home.”

He concluded, “A whole series of public policy documents and statements promise that people with disabilities would be supported to live in their own homes in the community.  The draconian cuts in the funds for housing adaptations and the further restrictions issued in the Department of the Environment’s circular on New Year’s Eve belie that promise; by these measures, the Department is failing to deliver on the Government policies of mainstreaming and community living.  We strongly urge Government to immediately prioritise the adequate funding of adaptation grants, and to ensure that the grant allocation rules respond to the diverse needs of those who require it.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

John Dolan, CEO 086 795 7467

Allen Dunne, Deputy CEO 086 850 2112

 

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