Sunday 20 January 2019

Calls to ring-fence funds that keep rural elderly safe

FG Senator Paudie Coffey
FG Senator Paudie Coffey

Claire McCormack

Funding must be "ring-fenced for rural security" in the upcoming Budget as community groups in the south east grapple with cuts to "vital" text alert systems.

It was revealed this week that the Government's €800,000 budget allocation for a scheme providing personal alarms for marginalised older people has been significantly under-spent over the last four years. Niall Garvey, CEO of Muintir na Tíre, is urging the Government not to reduce the budget for the scheme and instead use the underspent funds to promote the scheme to its targeted audience.

Waterford County Council recently indicated to all the county's community groups that it will not be able to sustain funding levels previously provided. The diminishing funding will also hit grants for crime prevention initiatives.

Donal Murphy, of Dunhill Community Alert Group, in Waterford, said grants for text alert systems are declining every year.

"In 2015, Waterford County Council gave us €450 to text alerts. Last year, we got €400 and this year we are allocated €320," he said, adding that crime has dropped in the area due to the success of the system.

In 2016, the Dunhill group, which has 120 members, spent more than €300 working off its text-based system. All texts are quality assured by Tramore garda station. "It's vital for the community, but if funding keeps falling it will be difficult to continue," he said.

Fine Gael senator Paudie Coffey is calling for a national response through the establishment of a new rural security fund from Government coffers.

"These groups were established nationally to assist communities to be more aware of crime or potential crime in their areas," he said.

"Traditionally they were funded through discretionary funds from local councils but councils are now reprioritising and are telling groups they may not be able to continue to provide that funding. It may be specific to Waterford for the moment, but if other local authorities follow it could become a national issue."

Irish Independent

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