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OAPs relieved over U-turn on panic buttons

ELDERLY people have been saved "stress and heartache" following Phil Hogan's U-turn on the panic-alarm budget, an OAP group has said.

The Minister for the Environment, inset, has given in to public pressure and restored a €1.3m cut to the scheme.

His department had slashed the money available to provide pendant alarms to elderly people from €2.45m to €1.15m -- a 53pc reduction.


But following a campaign by groups representing the elderly and people with disabilities, the Government decided to restore the funding to last year's level.

With attacks on vulnerable elderly around the country on the increase, the alarms are seen as more important than ever. The restoration followed warnings that cuts would have caused fear among older, vulnerable people living alone.

Along with the reduced funding, the department had also changed the eligibility criteria for the Senior Alert Scheme.

Over-65s not living alone would no longer have been able to qualify for the panic button, which is connected to a call centre through a phone line.

While denying Mr Hogan had performed a U-turn, the department admitted "unnecessary distress" had been caused to the elderly.

It said they had identified a way to retain the allocation at the same level as last year.

Welcoming the move, Eamon Timmins, of Age Action, said the initial decision caused "a lot of stress and heartache for older people.

"We are glad that common sense has prevailed and that the scheme can continue to support older people to live independently in their own homes."

Meanwhile, the Army should be drafted in to help gardai in patrolling rural areas, former defence minister Willie O'Dea said.

The Fianna Fail TD was reacting to a spate of attacks on the elderly and a "resurgence" in gang crime.

He told the Herald that there was "provision" for the Army to support gardai in their duties. "I absolutely believe we are facing a situation where we need greater cooperation between the Army and the gardai," he said.