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Elderly Safety Campaign (part 4)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Who was the guest?
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs - Eamon O'Cuiv who has overall responsibility for the Community Support for Older People scheme.

1. What is the Community Support for Older People?

The Scheme provides for a range of equipment to be provided to support the older person to live more securely and to maintain their independence. With respect to home security, grants are available to improve window and door locks, provide external security lighting, and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Socially monitored alarms (personal alarm) to be worn as a pendant or watch, hit the button when a crisis arises. The Scheme has been in operation since 1996 and was then the responsibility of the Department of Social Welfare. Apparently, in that particular year there were a high number of robberies etc, reported so the Scheme was set up to help vulnerable people. The Scheme has been open-ended for the past few years. Before this, the Department would advertise for applications at the beginning of the year and set a closing date. The scheme is now open-ended and the Department accept applications throughout the year.

Maximum individual grants

€300 in respect of socially monitored alarms - (watches, pendant or fall detector alarm Need landline).

(€60 -€66 Yearly Cost to older person for monitoring of above equipment from companies that monitor it)

€200 in respect of physical security equipment - door stop, door chain, window locks, mortis dead lock, chubb lock,

€200 in respect of security lighting includes installation- front and back light

€50 in respect of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detector - send signal to monitor centre.

€150 in respect of interior-emergency lighting (only for island inhabitants).

The Department are saying grant covers all installation fees, some community groups are saying doesn't cover physical security equipment, or smoke alarms, ask him this?

Some community groups organise volunteers (often tradesmen) to install the devices for free.
At the end of December 2009, €2.1 million was allocated by Department, 550 applications were processed from some 440 community groups, 6,390 older people benefited from the scheme.

Who is eligible to apply for the scheme?

1.The objective of the scheme to encourage members of community and voluntary organisations to initiate and maintain ongoing contact with the older people in their community area. The eligibility of an individual for grant aid under the Scheme is left to the discretion/judgement of the Community Groups involved who would be familiar with the circumstances of the individual.
The member of the community group who visits assesses the need in the home for the older person, and agrees the application with them. Most are not in need of all items due to most homes being more secure but many will require the monitored alert system. Grant support is available for the full range of equipment and the scheme will provide grant support to cover the costs of installation.

2. Once installed, it is important that the community group keep up contact with the older person to ensure that they continue to be part of community life, are secure in their homes and operate the equipment properly.

How do older people know which community groups to contact in their area reference applying for equipment?

1. Most people are aware of community groups in their area. The scheme is delivered through Neighbourhood Watch, Community Alert. Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Active Retirement, Carer's Groups and Senior Citizens Groups. The Department maintains contact with over 1300 groups and will advertise in the coming weeks to identify interested organizations to address gaps in coverage in some counties. A list of these groups on county basis is on website

2. Community groups advertise locally using parish newsletters, community and local radio, information sessions and local events. The local Garda station, public health nurse, home help, occupational therapist and GP's will be familiar with the scheme and who to contact.

3. The Department can give advice on the location of a community organization active in the scheme. They take daily calls from family members, the general public and advise them of their nearest group.

Department phone numbers for advice are Sligo 071 910 7818

Does the older person need to be a member of a community group in order to apply?

No. The Department would like to see community groups ensure ongoing contact with the older person, and they are included as much as possible in the life and events of the older community.

What criteria are used in assessing the older person's needs and who assesses the person following initial inquiry?

Members of the local community group assess the person's eligibility. The person must be over 65 years. Live alone or with other older people, not considered able to purchase the equipment from their own resources, be willing to operate the equipment and maintain payment of annual monitoring fees, and be in genuine need of support because of fear of crime or isolation.

Is it means-tested or can anyone apply?

No, there is no means test. They can be grant aided subject to meeting the criteria.

Does the older person have to have a medical card/health issue to qualify?

No, there is no requirement to hold a medical card, nor is it confined to those with medical conditions. The general criteria are that the older person is vulnerable because they live alone, and would not have the means to provide for the purchase of this type of equipment.

How does the personal alarm work and who maintains it?

The equipment consists of a base station connected to the ordinary telephone line. The person can choose to either wear a pendant button or watch style button. Should they need to make contact, they press the pendant button and the monitoring station is alerted and a two way voice channel is opened and the older person can speak to the monitoring station and express their concern. If needed, the monitoring station will then contact a family members/community contact or one of the other services required.

The local community group own the equipment and a monitoring fee is paid by the older person for the duration of its use. The company supplying the equipment will maintain it over its lifetime and repair or replace it as necessary. The equipment is robust and durable and has a long lifespan.

Once the grant has been paid and the equipment installed the community group which own the equipment is required to maintain an ongoing relationship with the older person and to ensure their comfort and security and that the equipment continues to be used and maintained.
The older person pays an annual monitoring fee direct to the monitoring provider.

Is the Scheme open ended or do applications have to be in by a certain date?

The Scheme is open all year round. The Department will introduce a revised Scheme in the coming weeks and will be advertising for community groups not previously involved to apply to be registered for their area.

Re suspension - is it planned to curtail services in future? Besides the issue of recycling alarms, what other issues did the review turn up?

The Minister has announced that a revised Scheme to take account of the finding of the Review will be introduced in the coming weeks. The existing Scheme will remain in place until a new Scheme is introduced. The Review identified a range of issues such as the need to improve guidance for community groups operating the Scheme, streamlining of the administrative arrangements, poor coverage in some parts of the country, engagement with the HSE and An Garda. The Review will be published shortly.

Are there limits on the community groups as to how many applications they can submit?

In order to get equipment installed as quickly as possible, the Department is asking groups to make applications for no more that 15 people at any one time. Most groups operating at local level make between five and eight applications a year because they can reuse their existing stock of equipment. Groups operating over a wider area can apply again once they account for the previous grant.