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Means-testing 'may include OAP savings'

THE inclusion of elderly and disabled people's savings in means-testing for housing grants will be examined in the future, the Herald has learned.

A previous review of the grants ruled out taking savings into account this time due to fears of money being kept at home, rather than in the bank.

But the proposal will be examined by a group of civil servants in the future, who may then recommend it be adopted.

CRACKDOWN

The Government has come under fire after a raft of cuts were revealed as part of a secret crackdown on grants paid to the most vulnerable people.

There was widespread shock after it emerged families who receive State funding for essential work on their homes will face Government measures.

There was particular criticism of the Labour party, whose TDs were accused of "turning their back" on the elderly and disabled by former junior minister for health, Roisin Shortall.

The cuts will see the slashing of grants by up to €2,500 per year and the exclusion of 60 to 65-year-olds from the Housing Aid for Older People scheme.

The measures were implemented by Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan on January 1, but without any announcement.

The Labour Party claimed yesterday there were no cuts to the scheme and insisted that the Government was in fact increasing the overall allocation this year by €3m.

But the party came under a stinging attack from the Opposition and organisations for the elderly and the disabled.

Groups including Age Action, Alone, The Carer's Association and The Disability Federation of Ireland warned the cuts would hit the most vulnerable.

But the reductions were defended by both the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste yesterday.

BENEFICIAL

"The fact of the matter is the overall grant here is increased this year, said Enda Kenny. "Jan O'Sullivan is bringing about changes that will ensure that the elderly people who need these grants will get them."

And Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore said that the measures adopted were "beneficial".

"What Minister O'Sullivan has done, and I know she has been talking about this publicly, is targeting this funding at those who need it most."

noconnor@herald.ie


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