The Seniors Alert Scheme could be at risk from Brexit according to Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring.
This appears to be due to the high number of Seniors Alert Scheme monitored alarm suppliers, using the same British manufacturer, combined with geographic restrictions on suppliers, due to the way the tender was structured.
Before the Seniors Alert Scheme was transferred to Pobal in 2014, many suppliers were permitted to provide monitored alarms across the country, under the government scheme which provides monitored alarms to older people.
For example, our Sponsor, TASK Community Care (Ireland’s longest established socially monitored alarm company) operated in the 26 counties before the transfer to Pobal. TASK shared the work with many other monitored alarm suppliers. Under the Pobal operated Seniors Alert Scheme, TASK is now restricted to supplying alarms in 4 counties (having won the maximum allowable number of lots).
Before the transfer to Pobal, the choice of alarm supplier was left with community groups and older people, who were required to get quotations from suppliers. However, when the department transferred the scheme to Pobal, the choice of alarm supplier was centralised and restricted. For instance, under the current scheme, only one monitored alarm supplier is authorised to operate in each geographic area (‘lot’). There are a total of seven lots covering the 26 counties.
When the 2014 transfer to Pobal was announced, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Community Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív TD commented, “This transfer will only add another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the administration of this scheme. Furthermore, one of the great flexibilities of the scheme has now been eliminated. There will now be one national tender for the supply and installation of personal monitor alarms, rather than allowing each separate group make their own purchasing arrangements. The present system allows each separate community group to purchase the equipment most suited to the needs of the target population. This new national purchasing system will stifle competition from within the market, as only the biggest players will be able to tender and make profit from the scheme.” [My Emphasis]
“This new national purchasing system will stifle competition from within the market, as only the biggest players will be able to tender and make profit from the scheme.”
Now there are fears that the supply of monitored alarms under the Seniors Alert Scheme could be affected by Brexit, apparently due to many of the Seniors Alert Scheme suppliers that won lots, using the same British alarm manufacturer.
Our Sponsor, TASK, in a meeting with Alan Kelly in December 2014, also raised concerns about the Pobal tender for the Seniors Alert Scheme, which apparently took place without consultation with community groups or suppliers. The discussions which took place during that meeting, were documented in an email by a government official to the Secretary General, later the same day.
According to departmental emails, following the meeting with TASK, the Minister of the Department of the Environment Community & Local Government (DECLG), Alan Kelly, decided that a consultation with community groups & suppliers should first take place. However, despite the Minister’s apparent instructions, the scheme’s transfer to Pobal continued and the tender was not re-issued.
Now more recently, speaking to the Irish Examiner, Minister Michael Ring has said the Senior Alert Scheme, which funds monitored alarms for older people in Ireland, is one of the areas identified by his department as being at risk by Brexit.
He said that some of the pendants worn by elderly people, which are used to raise an alarm if they get into difficulty, are sourced in the UK and so the supply of these could be impacted.
“There are one or two issues that we would have concern about; one is in relation to the Senior Alert Scheme, a lot of that equipment comes from Britain,” said Mr Ring.
However, according to the Irish Examiner, Mr Ring said his department would work hard to find alternative suppliers, if required.
Prior to Pobal operating the Seniors Alert Scheme, many suppliers were able to provide the funded monitored alarms nationally. Under the Pobal scheme, suppliers were restricted in number and geographically. And most winning suppliers had entered the Seniors Alert Scheme tender with the same British equipment manufacturer.
Seniors Alert Scheme | Changes in Structure Since Transfer To Pobal
The Seniors Alert Scheme was transferred to Pobal by the department in 2014. The first Pobal structured Seniors Alert Scheme began operating in 2015 as a national framework contract.
Following Pobal’s early termination of that Seniors Alert Scheme framework contract (which had been advertised and awarded as a three year contract) another Seniors Alert Scheme contract was structured and awarded in 2017. The new structure resulted in an even more limited number of alarm suppliers being able to supply monitored alarms, under the government scheme which began funding monitored alarms in 1996.
As noted by Minister Ring, under the new scheme “a lot of that equipment comes from Britain”.
The geographic restrictions on suppliers were implemented, despite recommendations from a Pobal commissioned Seniors Alert Scheme Review in 2016 which highlighted “concerns regarding the operation of regional lot arrangements…that had the effect in some areas of restricting access to some equipment providers”.
That 2016 review further stated that “it is proposed that the any restrictions placed on ‘lots’ by allowing equipment to be chosen from only one or two providers should be removed” [Recommendation 4]
Despite the recommendation proposing the removal of lot structures as regards equipment suppliers, for the 2017 scheme, lots were further restricted, to just one supplier per lot. This meant many Irish suppliers who previously carried out work under the scheme and thoughout Ireland, were no longer permitted to supply Seniors Alert alarms.
Despite the recommendation proposing the removal of lot structures as regards equipment suppliers, for the 2017 scheme, lots were further restricted to just one supplier per lot.
Further, the 2017 contract was structured, in a way that resulted in winning suppliers being prevented from operating in more than two out of the seven geographic areas (lots).
Of the suppliers who won lots, most entered the Seniors Alert Scheme contract with the same British equipment provider supplying their monitored alarms. One years free monitoring was also funded by Pobal under the 2017 scheme.
Since the award of the 2017 Scheme, spending on the Seniors Alert Scheme has quadrupled.
Irish Examiner |Brexit threat to Senior Alert Scheme, says minister
Broadsheet.ie | I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up
Parliamentary Question | Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the position regarding the changing of contracts for the installation of personal monitored alarms; the rationale behind expected changes regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Fianna Fáil Press Release | Transfer of Senior Alert Scheme to Pobal is Wrong and Should be Reversed – Ó Cuív
Southern Star | Fears for future of alarms for elderly scheme
The Independent | ‘Serious concerns’ over changes to the Senior Alert Scheme
VIDEO: The Seniors Alert Scheme operated by Pobal is discussed by Pobal’s CEO & Senior Management at a Rural and Community Development Committee Meeting in January 2018
VIDEO: Senator O’Sullivan asks Pobal CEO Dennis Leamy ‘What does community mean to Pobal’?
VIDEO: Mick Wallace speaking on Pobal and the State Contracts they receive without a tender process
Disclosure: Telecare.ie is Sponsored by TASK Community Care, a monitored alarm supplier that won the maximum of two lots (4 out of 26 counties) under the 2017 tender. Prior to the transfer, TASK operated alongside many other suppliers throughout the 26 counties. TASK supplies equipment from TeleAlarm (previously Bosch) who are headquartered in Germany. TASK is an Irish company & was Ireland’s first socially monitored alarm provider. TASK has confirmed their capacity and ability to continue to provide alarms and monitoring under the Seniors Alert Scheme, regardless of Brexit.
Page Updated: 08 March 2019