Fianna Fáil Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor has criticised the Government for failing to promote the Personal Alert Scheme for older people.

The scheme provides personal alarms for marginalised older people to enable them to continue living securely in their own home. The alarms are monitored on a 24/7 basis and allow older people who get into difficulty to receive instant support from family and friends or the emergency services.

Senator Murnane O’Connor said, “Minister of State Catherine Byrne recently confirmed through a parliamentary reply that the Personal Alert Scheme remains significantly undersubscribed. This is despite the fact that organisations such as Pobal and Muintir na Tíre have pointed out that marginalisation amongst older people is on the rise, particularly for those living in rural areas.

“The figures show that €800,000 earmarked for the scheme last year went unspent, representing 31% of the overall allocation. This is shocking when you consider the amount of older people who could benefit from the scheme if they had greater awareness of its availability. The Government should be using the remaining unspent money at the end of the year to promote the availability of the scheme. This is common sense stuff,” explained Senator Murnane O’Connor.

“I also have serious concerns over the impact of the previous Fine Gael – Labour Government decision to abolish the Telephone Allowance. This was a cruel cutback which had a direct impact on older people. It resulted in many older people having to give up their landline telephone. This is extremely problematic as the Personal Alert Scheme requires a landline to function correctly.

“The Government needs to examine this issue as a matter of urgency. Many older people feel isolated in their own homes and this simply isn’t acceptable in this day and age. The Personal Alert Scheme works well for those that have access to the scheme, and the focus of the Governments should be on promoting the scheme,” concluded Senator Murnane O’Connor.