Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher has expressed serious concern about the number of older people with access to the Senior Alert Scheme. Anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a fall off in the number of people signed up to the alert scheme since the abolition of the Telephone Allowance in 2014.
Senator Gallagher commented, “The abolition of the Telephone Allowance in Budget 2014 is one of the meanest and cruellest legacies of the Fine Gael-Labour Budget. This move targeted vulnerable older people, with many having to give up their landlines because they simply could not afford the cost.
“Far from protecting our older citizens, Fine Gael scrapped an important allowance, which provided access to family and friends to people who were housebound, living alone, or in remote areas. It also acted as a form of security as it facilitated the Senior Alert Scheme. Many of those who lost the Telephone Allowance began experiencing difficulties with the Senior Alert Scheme – as a result of mobile phone coverage issues, which renders the service almost unusable in some rural areas.
“Mobile phone coverage is a serious issue for older people, many of whom are now dependent on their handset as a result of the abolition of the Telephone Allowance.
“Older people are becoming increasingly isolated, particularly those in rural areas, and their landline provided an essential social and security service. Older people are becoming increasingly worried about crime in their areas. Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of high profile attacks on older people living in isolated areas, increasing fear in rural communities.
“The Telephone Allowance was an important service that provided peace of mind and security to older people. I would like the Government to seriously consider the re-introduction of this essential scheme to ensure that all older people have access to a landline”.