Staff shortage delays Council houses revamp for disabled

A lack of staff is preventing Galway County Council from carrying out the amount of modifications to houses that they own to suit the elderly and disabled that they would like.

A senior official with Galway County Council told the Connacht Tribune that during the course of 2016, they undertook a significant programme of adaptions to 30 social houses and spent around €150,000 in the process.

These included modifications such as the provision of stair lifts, wet rooms and increased accessibility to meet the needs of the elderly and disabled who are resident in Council-owned social housing.

But Michael Owens, the Director of Services for Housing, said that there was a requirement for extension to address overcrowding in situations where families in social housing have increased in numbers along with further disability requirements.

However, due to poor staffing levels it was not possible to advance this element of the social housing adaptations programme during the course of 2016.

Mr Owens went on to say that further adaptations to social have been undertaken already this year and a review of the requirement for extensions is currently being undertaken with a view to advancing a number of priority projects. But the reduced staffing levels continue to be a major obstacle.

The issue relating to adaptations and extensions to social housing was raised by Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte who was informed that Galway County Council did not draw down any funding under the Disabled Grants Scheme last year.

In a Dail response, the Fianna Fail TD was informed that Galway County Council were funding any works through the Local Property Tax which infuriated her as she said that this money should go towards community projects such as playgrounds or essential road realignment works.

But Mr Owens explained that last year they received funding to the tune of €124,000 from the Department of Housing and that a further €14,000 was provided by Galway County Council.

Deputy Rabbitte has expressed some confusion by both responses – with the Department saying that no funding was provided and explained that Galway County Council were one of only two local authorities that did not receive any money to carry out works to social housing.

“I am going to get to the bottom of this as the adaptations of social housing for the elderly and disabled is a priority in my book and it is vital that available funding is drawn down.

“It is also unacceptable that the Council say that they have no staff to carry out vital extensions for families in social houses that have grown in numbers. There is a health and safety issue involved here,” the Fianna Fail TD added.

In the Dail reply, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said that no exchequer founding was provided to Galway County Council or Fingal Council as they used Local Property Tax receipts to fund any works.

Deputy Rabbitte said that if Galway County Council, who raised by the Property Tax by 10% this year to householders, used any of these receipts for works that are funded by central Government, it would be a disgraceful situation.

“It is up to the Council to draw down money that is readily available and use the Property Tax funding for other essential projects around the county for which no exchequer funding is provided,” she said.