Relief as government rows back on panic button cuts

The Government’s reversal to halve spending on personal security alarms for the elderly has been greeted as a “victory for common sense”.

The Government’s reversal to halve spending on personal security alarms for the elderly has been greeted as a “victory for common sense”.

Last week, the main coalition parties of Fine Gael and Labour attracted widespread public anger when it revealed plans to cut funding for the Seniors Alert Scheme from just under €2.5m to €1.15m.

The scheme provides grants for the elderly living in their own homes to buy personal monitored alarms and pendants, known as “panic buttons”, and to contact gardai, fire or ambulance services during an emergency.

Under the proposed revisions, new entrants to the scheme would have been entitled to grants of €230 instead of €250 to buy the alarms. Equally, costs covering the supervision of the alarms were also intended to be transferred to users, a bill estimated to cost around €80 annually.

Amid a volley of criticism from community groups in the days since however, Taoiseach Enda Kenny eventually bowed to those concerns at the weekend, pledging that everybody over 65 was still eligilble for the scheme.

Locally, the u-turn has come in for welcome appraisal from elected representatives.

Longford Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan said she was pleased to see government chiefs had taken on board the concerns of various carer groups and bodies such as Age Action Ireland.

“I could never had stood over that decision and I wouldn’t have until I got a reversal,” she said.

After earlier criticising the cuts, Cllr Nolan said any savings would have been minimal when compared to other areas of the Government’s December budget.

“It would have been a pittance in the greater scheme of things,” she argued. “And in any case this was above politics. It was about peace of mind for these people who have been assessed for having this particular need. You have to have a social conscience on something like this and that is why I felt so strongly on it.”