A former Mayor of Waterford has hit out at the government for delivering “a slap in the face” to older people by ending a grant scheme for essential house repairs.

“It is immoral and disrespectful to people who have devoted their lives to family and country”, said Cllr Pat Hayes in reference to the fact that the plug has been pulled on a scheme which supplied up to €10,000 for house repairs for needy over 60’s.

The Labour councillor said 75 homes were repaired this year under the scheme, but 190 other applicants had to be notified recently that there was no money left to assist them.

“These are people who want to secure their homes for their old age but don’t have the resources to repair leaking roofs and windows and doors and other faults which will now deteriorate further”, he complained angrily.

He said the programme was launched prior to the last election but now the government was reneging on its promises. “The City Council was given €400,000 under the scheme this year but in the belief that more would be forthcoming as the need arose we spent in excess of that amount; now we learn the funding has dried up and will not be renewed in future”, he stated.

“I’m fully aware of the downturn in the economy”, he went on, “but the sick and the elderly must be our priority and these people should not be denied minimum home comforts through their golden years.

“Myself and other Council members had given qualifying applicants to understand they would get the money; now we have to tell them it’s simply not available. Surely people who have worked hard all their lives are entitled to more respect than that as they enter their pension years”?

He said it was typical of a growing attitude towards older people – that they should have to beg for assistance in providing themselves with life’s basics.

It was the same in terms of the health service and elderly care, with nursing home subventions falling way short of what was required, leaving vulnerable old people turning to their families for financial assistance to pay their way. “It is a shame and a scandal that the country’s resources are so unevenly divided, with the sick and the elderly left short while some others gorge on the fruits of their lifetime of labour”, the outspoken councillor added.