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 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Housing (Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability) Bill 2018: First Stage

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 976 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] I have to admit to, on occasion, having left my wallet at home and, therefore, having driven without my driving licence. We need to tighten up the law but we need to tighten it up in such a way that we are not a police state.

Deputy Pat Buckley: Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley The programme for Government, under the heading Ensuring Support in Crisis, states: "For those vulnerable to suicidal behaviour, the HSE Mental Health Directorate should provide a co-ordinated, uniform, quality assured and safe 24/7 service and deliver pathways of care from primary to secondary mental health services for all those in need of specialist mental health services." When will this be rolled out?

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly I presume the Deputy is referring to 7-7 care.

Deputy Pat Buckley: Information on Pat Buckley Zoom on Pat Buckley It is 24-7.

Deputy Jim Daly: Information on Jim Daly Zoom on Jim Daly The 7-7 is the first step on the route to 24-7. There has been very significant progress in the past 12 months, as the Deputy is aware. Since the programme for Government commitment was made, the budget has literally ballooned and has gone from €700 million five years ago to well in excess of €1 billion. Part of that is the rolling out of 7-7 care and then 24-7 care, on which there has been significant progress.

Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe: Information on Kevin O'Keeffe Zoom on Kevin O'Keeffe Almost 12 months ago I hosted in the AV room of Leinster House a group of consultants and sufferers of pulmonary hypertension. As the Taoiseach will know, given his profession, it is an acute illness of the lungs which causes breathing problems and leads to other ailments. To get through daily life, sufferers incur enormous costs due to the need for oxygen machines and medical prescriptions which do not qualify under the medical card. Will the Government recognise this illness as a long-term illness and, in so doing, allow people to get medical cards? I believe it can be done without imposing extra costs on the Department of Health.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar There is a difference between the medical card scheme and the long-term illness scheme. The difficulty with the long-term illness scheme is that it does not have a statutory basis and, for that reason, it is not possible to add new illnesses to it without primary legislation, which would reopen the whole question of whether any of the illnesses on it should stay on it.

Deputy John Brady: Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady The programme for Government commits to developing work activation, social protection and further education services to ensure a seamless service for jobseekers. I want to raise the issue of JobPath and its privatisation through the two companies, Turas Nua and Seetec. After years of requests, we have finally got damning statistics relating to the privatisation of that service. The figures were given to the Committee of Public Accounts in recent weeks and they show that 190,000 citizens have been referred to those two companies at a staggering cost of €149 million. The most damning statistic is that of the 190,000 people referred, only 17,100 have been in sustained employment for over 12 months. Does the Taoiseach view it as value for money that €149 million has been spent and 17,100 jobs sustained? Given those damning statistics, will he immediately stop the referral of people to Seetec and Turas Nua?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I refer the Deputy to the answer I gave earlier today on this very topic, except I will add one thing. If one examines the statistics, and I have not done so, although I will take a look at them, what one has to compare with is the counterfactual - that is, with those who were not referred to JobPath or Intreo - to see if there is a difference as to whether they were able to hold onto sustained employment or not.

Deputy Martin Kenny: Information on Martin Kenny Zoom on Martin Kenny This morning several cross-Border agencies appeared at the rural affairs committee and in the AV room, including the Irish Central Border Area Network, the Centre for Cross Border Studies and people from the east Border region. All of them were coming with a deep concern, particularly in the context of Brexit. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to continue to fund these agencies and to make sure the Border corridor is not adversely affected by Brexit. These groups are extremely concerned about how they are going to survive into the future. Basically, they ask that we put a plan in place. Both Governments need to come together and come up with a short-term plan, not a long-term plan, with funding and resources to ensure this area of the island, which will be most adversely affected by Brexit, and these agencies have an assurance they will get the kind of funding and resources they need so they can work into the future. I would like a commitment from the Taoiseach that he will work with counterparts in the British Government to come up with a solution so a project can be put forward and funding delivered for these communities.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar It is our policy that PEACE and INTERREG funding should continue and the draft proposals from the European Commission provide for PEACE II to form part of the multi-annual financial framework, MFF, for next year. Obviously, I cannot make commitments on behalf of the EU or the UK Government but I can say it is this Government's policy and our determination to work with our European and British colleagues to ensure funding for cross-Border co-operation continues. In fact, if anything, it will become more important than ever after Brexit. The Deputy has that commitment on my behalf.

Housing (Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability) Bill 2018: First Stage

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision for ease of access to a housing adaptation grant for people with a disability for those applicants qualifying for same and to provide for related matters.

 I wish to share time with Deputy Frank O'Rourke.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The policy on all sides of this House, as I understand it, is that elderly or ill people should be allowed to remain in the comfort and security of their own homes, or the homes of members of their family, rather than being in nursing homes or in State care in hospitals, and so on. In order to achieve that objective, repairs or alterations have to be done to a house in many cases. There is a scheme of State grants for alterations in those circumstances and there has been increased provision for this lately, which I welcome. Unfortunately, there are serious defects in the administration of this scheme and how it is operated by various local authorities. It is extremely slow and tedious and it operates unevenly between one local authority and another. What we are proposing is a system which would bring uniformity to this area and would enable these grants to be processed much more speedily and efficiently.

It is a humane measure. It would enable people who are ill or elderly and who wish to live with their own family, or their family members, to get the grant so the patient or elderly person could move into the accommodation as quickly as possible, certainly much more quickly than at present. I urge the Government to adopt the Bill. Deputy O'Rourke will explain how it will operate.

Deputy Frank O'Rourke: Information on Frank O'Rourke Zoom on Frank O'Rourke I welcome the opportunity to introduce the Bill with my colleague, Deputy O'Dea. The thinking behind this, as Deputy O'Dea outlined, is to make the system more efficient and effective and to have it operate evenly across all counties with a universal approach. At the moment people are unnecessarily delayed in nursing homes and hospitals due to the amount of time needed to process and approve grants, which take approximately six months on average across all local authorities. We know people who are elderly or ill are more comfortable and independent when living in their own home, and this is about making the process more efficient.

Our proposal, which we hope is accepted by other parties, is that when an application is made, it is put forward to the local authority with an occupational therapist's report, whether from the community or the hospital, with a proposal from a registered builder or architect, and accompanied by two quotations. When all that is furnished to the local authority with proof of the person's income and proof they have paid the local property tax, all of which are part of the current process, a decision would be made on the application within a month in order to give some continuity and efficiency to the system. This is very important for the applicant, who will know they are being approved for the grant and what level of funding is approved. In addition, it obviously helps the process by preventing unnecessary delays in regard to bed-blocking in hospitals and nursing homes. It also gives some certainty to people making the application as to when they will get back into their own home.

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