Suspension of alarm scheme only temporary

The suspension of the grant scheme for pendant alarms for the elderly has aroused anxiety among interest groups representing senior citizens in the region and the president of Age and Opportunity Mamo McDonald is calling for its re-instatement. She described the suspension as scandalous, and says it is much more serious than the cancellation of the Christmas bonus for the elderly. The grant, some €300 per applicant, has been suspended by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs pending a review, which is taking place between now and September. The pendant is worn around the neck and is a valuable, easily triggered mechanism to summon assistance in an emergency. It is important to those living on their own and is widely availed of by senior citizens and those with impaired movements. The suspension of the scheme was revealed as part of the supplementary budget and in a follow-up statement the Department said the Community Support for Older People scheme was being temporarily suspended and that consultation is taking place with interest groups as part of that review. Minister Eamon O Cuiv and Minister of State John Curran met Age Action Ireland, St. Vincent de Paul, Muintir na Tire, Irish Rural Link and the Senior Citizen Parliament to discuss the scheme. All applications on hand will be processed in the normal way. The Department points out that applications received between 2008 and 2009 involve a total of €5m, which is double the average annual spend in 2002-07. The Department said that both ministers are committed to the scheme. Mary O"Reilly with Fold Telecare, one of the service providers for the pendant alarm scheme, told the Anglo-Celt that under the grant scheme every person in the State over the age of 65 was entitled to financial assistance for the pendants or for improved security to their homes. Under the scheme elderly people could avail of the €300 grant for the purchase and installation of the equipment, a significant cost to the senior citizen who also pays a monitoring fee, which works out at approximately €7.50 a month. Fold Telecare, a not-for-profit organisation, revealed that it is willing to provide the service inclusive of the purchase and installation for €9.95 per month. According to Mary O"Reilly, the scheme has been running successfully for twelve years. She regarded the decision to suspend it as 'petty' considering that there was only a couple of million euro allocated to it in a given year. She felt that the pendant scheme enabled independent living and should be encouraged as far as possible. Under the scheme the senior citizen is linked to a personal contact 24 hours a day and can easily contact that person or the service provider. Besides Fold Telecare there are other service providers, but Fold points out that it is the only not-for-profit organisation operating the service. Irish Rural Link (IRL), the national organisation campaigning for sustainable rural communities, welcomed the announcement that the suspension of the Scheme of Community Support for Older People is only a temporary measure and that it will reopen in September with a similar level of funding as before. IRL had talks with the minister regarding the future of the scheme today. Its chief executive Seamus Boland said: 'Following our meeting with Minister O Cuiv IRL are pleased that the department has announced its intention to honour all applications currently on hand. It has made a commitment that the scheme is only suspended temporarily and will reopen in September. The minister has made a commitment to keep the same overall level of funding as recent years, meaning approximately €2.5m will be available to community and voluntary organisations to enable older people live independently. 'We welcome this sensible development. A review of the scheme"s operation with an emphasis on achieving greater value for money will be undertaken and IRL will be making a submission as part of the review and is inviting its members to participate,' concluded Mr. Boland.