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Saturday 24 June 2017

Less than 10pc of fund for flood victims paid out

Patricia McDonagh

LESS than 10pc of a €10m hardship fund set up to aid flooding victims has been used -- eight months after the crisis caused disaster around the country.

Just €1.4m of the Government's humanitarian assistance fund has been drawn down to help those who saw their homes submerged in monsoon-like conditions last year.

The remaining funding is now expected to be ring-fenced for future flood disaster payouts.

The Department of Social and Family Affairs said yesterday that the low drawdown was due to the fact that the bulk of repair costs had been met through insurance policies held by those affected.

More than 3,149 payments have been made by Local Community Welfare Services to 1,290 individuals since the scheme was set up in November 2009. The fund was established by the Government after some of the worst flooding in living memory left the country facing a multi-million euro flood damage bill.

The means-tested scheme was introduced primarily to cater for those who were not covered by insurance and could not meet the "essential needs" of living.

Those successful were given money to replace carpets, beds, flooring and appliances such as washing machines and cookers.

Limit

It also covered the cost of medical treatments and emergency income support payments to those in need, which were not means tested.

No limit was placed on the amount that could be paid out under the assistance scheme, but the amount received depended on the level of damage to the home. The scheme was administered by Community Welfare Officers from the Health Service Executive, who were instructed by the Department of Social and Family Affairs to give priority to the most urgent cases.

New figures, obtained by the Irish Independent, show the largest payment made to date to one victim was in excess of €25,000.

Households in Galway received the largest share of the fund, with 337 people in the flood-hit region receiving a total of €422,104.

More than 495 householders in Cork received a total of €381,641, while Clare was in third place with a total of €264,911 paid out to 101 people in the region.

"The €1.4m spent on the scheme to date is based on the level of essential needs of the qualified individuals," a spokeswoman for the department said.

Exchequer

"The department was given permission by Government to spend up to €10m as required, so it is not a question of money going back to the Exchequer.

"There are still likely to be further requirements of funding from this allocation," she added.

Meanwhile, new figures also show a scheme to aid farmers affected by flooding has been underutilised. Just €528,718 of a €2m "Fodder Damage Scheme" to help farmers meet the cost of replacing silage, hay and animal feeds destroyed by the floods has been used.

A total of 256 payments were made to farmers in 15 counties affected by the floods since the fund was set up in November of last year.

Last night a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said the department had worked with farming bodies to ensure that all affected farmers knew about the scheme and the closing date was also extended.

Irish Independent

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