Dolores Kelly MLA.
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly has raised concerns that grants to assist people with disabilities to make adaptations to their homes are falling short.
The SDLP has written to Communities Minster Deirdre Hargey urging her to increase the NI Housing Executive’s Disabled Facilities Grant in line with the increasing construction and materials costs in a post-Covid/post-Brexit society.
Under the current metrics of the scheme, applicants can avail of grant aid of up to £25,000. However, in a small number of cases, an upper limit of £50,000 can be provided.
The Upper Bann MLA said:
“In June last year, the SDLP wrote to Minister Hargey asking her to take immediate action to address the colossal waiting list for housing adaptations. This issue pre-existed Covid and unfortunately it appears will be exacerbated by yet another obstacle in the form of wholly inadequate levels of financial support provided under the Disabled Facilities Grant.
“In recent weeks, it has come to our attention that a number of adaptation works have been put on hold as a result of significant gaps between the initial grant amount awarded to individuals compared with the increasing labour and material costs. The construction industry has been severely impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic and the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has resulted in difficulty accessing building supplies consequently driving up prices.
“It is important that this unprecedented set of circumstances is reflected in the available financial support. The SDLP has written to Minister Hargey urging her to increase the Disabled Facilities Grant rates threshold.
“These life-changing adaptations are crucial for so many vulnerable individuals to restore their independence and dignity. The majority of families availing of the Disabled Facilities grant are not in a position to make up the shortfall in costs. They have already waited too long for these adaptations only to be stalled at the final hurdle. Steps must be taken urgently to ensure individuals can live more independently and enjoy a better quality of life within their homes.”