Speech for Minister Brady at the Launch of Respond! Housing Association’s Older Persons Strategy

I am delighted to be here this morning to launch your Association’s Older Person Strategy.

I would like to thank Fr. Pat Cogan and Aoife Walsh for their kind invitation to be here today.

Respond! Housing Association.

Having a place to call our own is a basic human need, indeed human right. Without a home, we are extremely vulnerable to a range of dangerous or damaging influences – not least being the Irish weather. But often more damaging than hunger, violence or neglect is the resulting and pervasive effects to a persons self – esteem that can so easily arise from homelessness. Fortunately, homelessness does not necessarily equate to hopelessness as agencies such as Respond! are there to make a difference.

Since 1984, the Respond! Housing Association has been to the forefront in providing housing to some of the most vulnerable groups in our society including families, older people, the homeless and disabled people. The Association is one of the largest voluntary housing providers in the country and has built almost 5,200 homes nationwide with a further 350 currently under construction.

Respond aims to create self-supporting, vibrant and safe environments that are integrated into the wider community. They provide the necessary support and opportunities for tenants to achieve this goal. Residents are not therefore purely given a house to live in, they are also given an opportunity to be part of the community, and a sense of belonging which is a fundamental desire in us all.

Many people who otherwise would have found it difficult to realise their dream of living in a home of their own, or who felt socially isolated for whatever reason, have become part of a community primarily through the work and dedication of the Respond team.

Sheltered Housing

Suitable housing is a crucial factor to enable older people to live independent lives for as long as possible. The Government at all times endeavours to aid older people in achieving this. Sheltered housing is one of the most significant developments in fostering continued independent living. It is an essential component of a comprehensive policy for older people, particularly in relation to tackling social isolation.

Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS)

The vital role that non-profit housing associations, such as Respond!, fulfils has been facilitated by the provision of significant funding arrangements through the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) from the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. This Scheme, administered by the Local Authorities, has encouraged voluntary and co-operative groups to undertake housing developments in all parts of the country. The capital provision of €145 million for Special Needs Housing in 2010 will ensure that the Voluntary & Co-operative Sector can add a further 1,000 housing units to their existing stock this year.

Effective co-operation and partnership between approved housing bodies and statutory authorities has resulted in the effective use of limited resources.

Housing Adaptation Grants Available for Older People and People with a Disability

The Grants for Older People, and People with a Disability, assists these groups living in poorer housing conditions to have necessary repairs or improvements carried out to their homes. The schemes, introduced in November 2007, have been very successful in allowing older people to remain where they really want to be – in their own homes. As is the case with CAS, these Schemes are administered by the local authorities, and funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

This year the Exchequer allocations to housing authorities in respect of these grants show an increase of over €19 million, compared to the initial allocation for 2009. I welcome the fact that, for the first time ever, overall grant expenditure by housing authorities in 2010 will hit the €100 million mark.

I also welcome the transformation in the approach to targeting housing supports at people at particular stages in their lifecycle. This is of particular significance to older people who are not in need of social or supported housing but require financial assistance to have certain necessary improvements and adaptations carried out to their own homes. A great many older people are perfectly capable of living fulfilling and independent lives in their own homes and communities, with only low-level supports. This is provided of course, that their accommodation is of a satisfactory standard and suitable to their needs. Of the 11,400 grants paid out last year under the grant schemes, some 4,300 of these were for improvements to the structure of the homes of older people, while a further 1,267 grants dealt with mobility problems largely associated with ageing.

Respond! Older Person’s Strategy.

I understand that in 2008, Respond completed an internal survey of their residents which highlighted gaps in service provision amongst residents in CAS units, specifically older people. In response to these identified needs, Respond! completed the Older Persons Strategy being launched today.

The publication of this Strategy is a tangible illustration of the high value with which Respond holds its older residents. The Strategy has 13 Aims, which encompass for example, Staff Training; Estate Management; Supports in accessing Health and Social Services; and Information. The Strategy will guide the work of Respond into the future and ensure that older residents remain at home for as long as possible, whilst enjoying a good quality of life.

Government Policy – Older People

There is no doubt that for many, as we get older, our first choice is to remain living at home in the communities which we are part of, rooted to and familiar with. The Government is committed to ensuring that older people receive a comprehensive range of services that will enable them to continue to live at home for as long as possible.

Positive Ageing Strategy:

As Minister, my duties involve overall responsibility for the Office for Older People. This Office reinforces most clearly the commitment of the Government to enhancing the lives of our senior citizens. A key function of my Office is to develop a National Positive Ageing Strategy. This will take forward the commitment in the Programme for Government ‘to better recognize the position of older people in Irish Society’.

My goal is to develop a meaningful and innovative strategy that will result in real improvement in the lives of older people

Last June, I requested submissions on the Positive Ageing Strategy and I was delighted with the response. In total we received 186 submissions from a broad range of agencies and organisations as well as individual older people from all over Ireland. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Respond for their valuable contribution to this process.

To further progress the development of the Strategy I recently began a series of face-to-face meetings around the country to hear at first hand the views of older people on issues that affect them. I have for example already held local consultations in Cork, Galway, Sligo, Kildare, Enniscorthy and Limerick. Over the past week or so, we had very successful meetings in Dublin and Dundalk, and I will shortly conclude the public consultation process in Athlone. I have found these meetings to be most valuable in formulating the Strategy. I think that many older people who attended also welcome the opportunity to make a useful and practical input.

We need to be proactive and ambitious in improving the lives of all older people in this country. We have an ageing population and this trend will continue. Therefore, we need to work together in providing flexible and workable responses to the housing and care needs that this growing number of older people will require in the years ahead.

I would like to congratulate Respond on the launch of its Strategy and compliment Fr. Pat Cogan, and the entire Respond team for the many projects that they have successfully undertaken and currently manage to such a high standard. I wish you every success in implementing your Strategy for Older People in the years ahead.

Thank you.