Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has hit out at the government for their practice of leaving elderly people and those with disabilities to languish as prisoners in their own home.
Highlighting figures that show that the total budget allocation for Housing Adaptation Grants for Louth is down almost half a million euro on last year Deputy Munster raised the matter in the Dáil today.
Deputy Munster said:
‘We’re halfway through 2018 and there are already 267 applications so far plus 95 carried over from 2017 making a total of 362. The allocated budget will only cover 123 of these which means that Louth County Council will need extra funding of €1,840,004 to clear the remaining applications.
Despite claims in their Programme for a Partnership Government that they value and will facilitate the continued independent living in their own homes for the elderly and People with a Disability they are slow to release the necessary funds. Instead they leave hundreds of people to struggle for survival in their substandard homes.
This is reflected in almost daily representations being made in my Drogheda constituency office as in constituency offices all over the country by elderly and disabled people, or their families on their behalf, for downstairs bathrooms, stair-lifts, bedrooms or wet rooms to enable them to continue living in their own homes.
Additional funding needs to be released immediately to Louth County Council to clear these remaining applications.’
Sinn Féin Councillor Kenneth Flood has issued a warning about fraudsters in the Drogheda area who are targeting the elderly and vulnerable people.
Cllr Flood who is also Chairperson of the Drogheda Joint Policing Committee was contacted by an elderly man’s concerned neighbours on Drogheda’s Northside after he was targeted.
Cllr Flood said “On Tuesday 22nd of August, three men in a white van called to this gentleman’s door claiming he needed his gutters cleared. They demanded an exorbitant €250 for the job which he paid because he felt coerced into doing so and after pretending to do the work they left without doing anything”.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story. Cllr Flood then related that “the next day two different men in a white transit van called to the same gentleman’s home and claimed he needed work done to his roof. Luckily, on this occasion, they were challenged by the elderly man’s neighbours who were aware of what had happened the previous day and they quickly left the area”.
Cllr Flood was concerned at the very deliberate targeting of this elderly man. “I am advised by his neighbours that he is now terrified that he will be targeted again.”
The Drogheda Councillor urged residents “not to agree to anything on the doorstep and to keep a particular eye on elderly and vulnerable neighbours who may be having work done. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, genuine tradesmen will be happy enough to answer any queries and identify themselves.”
With Bus Eireann workers being left with no option but to strike from next Monday, Sinn Féin Councillor Antóin Watters has called for the management to reconsider their position and think of “the inconvenience it will cause to those in rural areas who are dependent on this transport”.
Cllr Watters said “I have been speaking to concerned citizens who already feel isolated in rural areas and now they are facing their lifeline being cut off. They depend on the bus service to take them to doctor’s appointments, hospital appointments, shopping and much more. These are citizens that have seen their rural way of life become more challenging with cuts to what little services they had”.
Cllr Watters said “Bus Eireann Management have no idea what effect their decision will have on ordinary people; the disruption it will cause to school children and workers getting to and from work; the further isolation of our older people and the vulnerable.
“Do not underestimate the value of the rural bus service. Bus Eireann management have shown a total disregard to the people of Cooley and other rural areas. We need to oppose this Government’s policy of privatising our public transport or we face losing our bus services altogether.”
Cllr Watters had a final message to Bus Eireann management, “Get your act together and get this sorted, it is not the fault of the workers, perhaps you need to look closer to home. You are causing massive inconvenience to people in rural areas. You are playing with people’s lives, stop it!”
Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster has urged the government not to introduce a €50 annual charge for the Free Travel Pass, as proposed in an internal government report which was recently released to the media.
Other proposals in the report include a move towards reduced fares rather than free fares, and a review of the medical requirements for companion passes for people who cannot travel alone.
Deputy Munster said:
“Over 1.2 million are entitled to the free travel pass and it is estimated that under half of those are in receipt of a state pension, over 20% qualify for disability payment, and 7% are carers”.
“The free travel pass provides free travel for pensioners, people with disabilities and carers. It provides a vital service for people to who have already contributed to society who need this pass to attend hospital appointments, for people with disabilities, ensures against isolation for people in rural areas and also social inclusion for those who qualify”.
“The vast majority of people in receipt of the travel pass rely on it for the majority of their travel needs, and it is vital that it is protected and that it remains a free travel pass”.
Deputy Munster said:
“We have seen too often where a charge is brought in such as the prescription charge it can increase five fold within a matter of a few years. I have written to the Minister urging him to give an absolute commitment to retaining the free travel pass and have questioned the reasons or motives behind the leaking of the report to the media”.
At yesterday’s Louth County Council Budget meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Imelda Munster put forward a proposal to transfer all allowances of the Chairpersons, vice chairs and SPC chairs of Dundalk, Drogheda, Ardee and Louth councils into Housing Adaptations for our elderly citizens in Louth.
A delighted Cllr Munster said “the total amount for the top up allownces total €78,000 and now this money can be put to better use in providing adaptations such as stair lifts, ramps and downstairs washrooms for our elderly citizens in Louth as this service has been grossly under-funded over the last number of years with many applications for adaptations refused due to lack of funding.”
There was controversy earlier this year when the Chairpersons of the three municipal districts were awarded top up allowances despite only attending 12 meetings a year.
Sinn Féin have consistently put this proposal to the Louth County Council but have always been out voted. When it was passed Cllr Munster said “this is a good day for change in Louth, we promised people a new era of local government and this is the start. We as Councillors already get paid to be councillors. There really is no justification for these top up payments for chairpersons especially when Louth Local Authorities have been and continue to be starved of funding for the provision of the most basic services that taxpayers have every right to expect from their local council.”
Cllr Munster ended by thanking all those who supported her proposal and hoped that other County Councils will follow suit.