Housing adaptation grant scheme not currently fit for purpose Canney says

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The system of housing adaptation grants for people living with a disability has been described as “not fit for purpose” by a Galway TD.

Galway East TD Seán Canney said that the housing adaptation grants from local authorities “Are not fit for purpose relative to the cost of doing work, taking into account the gap between getting the work done and getting paid.”

Speaking in the Dáil, he added that shortfalls in the grants awarded puts a financial burden on families.

Deputy Canney was speaking in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Disability Matters, where panel members were discussing the need to align Ireland’s disability services with the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The committee heard from Ms Samantha Kenney, a mother of four children, one of whom has multiple physical and mental disabilities, and two of whom are autism spectrum.

She told the committee that the current housing adaptation system is a “rigmarole” where, after being told by the council what adaptations were needed for her children, the grant only amounted to half of the quoted costs.

“Our quote was for €30,000 for the amount of work that needs to be done. The council came back and gave us a grant quote of €15,000.”

Even where they received a grant to cover some of the costs, they still had to find the full amount to pay up front, Samantha added.

“We now have to find the extra €15,000 but in reality, we have to find €30,000 because we have to pay the builder upfront. The work has to be done.”

“Then the council sends an inspector out to make sure the work is done as per the report and gives us the grant back retrospectively. For us to start work on an adaptation, therefore, I have to find €30,000, even though I am eligible for receipt of a grant for €15,000. That is a huge amount of money.”

“I am not alone in this. There are people out there who need larger adaptations than we need. We are very fortunate that we have the capability to ask for help from other people because not many people have that.”

The Housing Adaptation Grant Scheme for Older People and People with a Disability is administered by local council, with 80% of the funding for the scheme coming from the Department of Housing.

This year, Galway City and County Councils allocated over €4 million in funding for the scheme, with departmental and local funding combined.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a severe impact on the scheme, with three out of five people in Galway City who applied in the first six months of this year still waiting for their home to be inspected last September.

Deputy Canney said that adaptation grants need to be tailored specifically to the needs of the household at that time.

“That is instead of a block grant for doing something, with the threshold decided by the local authority and which has no real bearing on the overall cost,” Seán Canney said.