Min­is­ter asked to sub­sidise meals for small farm­ers, pen­sion­ers

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FARM FINANCE - Stephen Cado­gan

A Fianna Fail TD’S Christ­mas wish that the Gov­ern­ment would pro­vide small farm­ers or pen­sion­ers with vouch­ers to sub­sidise their meals in lo­cal restaurants was dashed last week.

In the Dail, Wex­ford TD James Browne tabled a writ­ten ques­tion to Min­is­ter for Ru­ral and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Michael Ring ask­ing him if he had con­sid­ered in­tro­duc­ing a scheme in which small farm­ers or pen­sion­ers can avail of vouch­ers to sub­sidise the cost of spend­ing on meals in small lo­cal restaurants.

How­ever, Min­is­ter Ring passed the Santa Claus role onto his col­league, Regina Do­herty, say­ing his Depart­ment’s sup­ports for groups in ru­ral and ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties do not ex­tend to the pro­vi­sion of sub­si­dies or in­come sup­port for in­di­vid­u­als, and he would see this mat­ter as more rel­e­vant to his col­league, the Min­is­ter for Em­ploy­ment Af­fairs and So­cial Pro­tec­tion.

TDS may have taken Min­is­ter Ring for a soft touch, af­ter he re­cently said the best Christ­mas present you can get an older rel­a­tive or neigh­bour is to reg­is­ter them for the Se­niors Alert Scheme.

The scheme sup­ports vul­ner­a­ble older people through pro­vi­sion of free per­sonal mon­i­tored alarms, which can be ac­ti­vated by a de­vice worn as a pen­dant or on the wrist like a watch.

Min­is­ter Ring said: “The amount of par­tic­i­pants on the Se­niors Alert Scheme has dou­bled in the last year, as a re­sult of in­creased in­vest­ment in the scheme.

“By late 2017, there were just over 18,000 par­tic­i­pants.

“This had in­creased to over 35,000 par­tic­i­pants by late Sep- tem­ber of this year, and many more have signed up since then.

“My Depart­ment was orig­i­nally al­lo­cated €2.3m in 2018 to ad­min­is­ter the scheme but due to a huge surge in de­mand we have al­ready spent €5.4 mil­lion this year.”

He also urged people to keep an eye on their el­derly neigh­bours at this time of year. The alarms are pro­vided free to users, in­clud­ing the first year of mon­i­tor­ing.

The mon­i­tor­ing cost for year two is about €65 plus VAT.

The Depart­ment of Ru­ral and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment was es­tab­lished last year to de­liver on the Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to greater co-or­di­na­tion and co­he­sion in work for ru­ral Ire­land and for com­mu­ni­ties.

The Depart­ment’s re­vised Es­ti­mates for 2018 set out gross cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture of €87.5 mil­lion and cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture of €144 mil­lion. The biggest ex­pen­di­tures up to De­cem­ber were €56.5m on re­gional de­vel­op­ment, and €120m on com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment.

Min­is­ter for Ru­ral and Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Michael Ring.

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