THE elderly and infirm will pay the price for the Government's decision to slash funding for so-called "panic buttons" with their lives, campaigners say.
Age Action and the Carers Association said they were shocked to learn that the 2013 budget for the Senior Alert Scheme has been quietly cut by more than half.
The scheme provides grants for elderly or infirm people living in their own homes to buy personal monitored alarms and pendants, known as "panic buttons", to alert gardai, fire or ambulance services during an emergency.
Last year €2.4m was allocated to the scheme run by the Department of the Environment. But under changes contained in December's Budget, funding has been cut to €1.1m.
The changes mean that new entrants to the scheme will get grants of €230 instead of €250 to buy the alarms while paying for monitoring the alarms themselves, which costs up to €80 annually.
The criticism came as callous thieves targeted the elderly in a spate of robberies around the the country just days after a 96-year-old woman was punched by a robber at her home in Co Donegal.
An elderly brother and sister were left terrified after being attacked by three masked men who broke into their rural home for a second time in seven days.
Dan and Mary Crowley, retired farmers in their 80s, were attacked by three men in balaclavas at their isolated home at Ballyregan, Kinsale.
The attack occurred shortly after 3pm on Tuesday.
Gardai now fear that the same raiders had returned to the Crowley's home after burgling the property last week. A quantity of cash was taken.
Mr Crowley tried to get his sister back into his Isuzu SUV to drive away to safety.
However, the raiders caught the couple before they could lock the vehicle doors.
The elderly man was grabbed by the coat, shoved, and threatened. His sister was also dragged out of the vehicle.
Their nephew Christy Buckley said: "They are gurriers, pure gurriers. How can anyone do this to elderly people?"
Gardai are hunting for a gang of five men who beat a pensioner with a baseball bat after he disturbed them in his home.
Mickey Joe Golden, who is in his late 60s and from Crosspatrick, Killala, was attacked at 1.30am on Saturday. His son Michael was woken by the noise and came to his aid.
The farmer suffered severe facial injuries in the attack, including a suspected broken eye socket.
He has since been discharged from hospital, but was too traumatised to speak about his ordeal yesterday.
An elderly woman whose home was burgled may have been targeted by callous raiders for her bingo winnings.
Widow Bridie Leahy (90) was found by her niece lying on the floor of her bedroom the following morning in a distressed state.
She was subjected to a terrifying ordeal after she woke to find raiders prowling in her bedroom.
They demanded money from her before making off with a small amount of cash.
She had attended bingo earlier on Sunday night and her neighbours in Ballygologue Park in Listowel, Co Kerry, believe her movements had been watched.
Since the incident the woman is being cared for by relatives.