Seniors Alert Scheme News Coverage (2013)
In early January 2013, the Government made a decision to cut spending on the Seniors Alert Scheme, which provided funding for personal security alarms for older people. The original decision to cut the funding met a storm of protest after it was communicated to voluntary organisations that administered the scheme.
- RTE News | Shock as funding for monitored-alarm scheme for older people cut
- Irish Examiner | Alarms for elderly – Cutbacks hit vulnerable
- The Independent | ‘Panic button’ funding cut in half amid new wave of callous attacks on elderly
- Irish Times | Anger over cuts to alarms for elderly
- Irish Election | Cuts in alarms security for elderly adds to cynicism about government commitment to ‘protect the most vulnerable in our society’
- The Journal | Cut in elderly alarm scheme criticised as “penny-wise and pound-foolish”
- Donegal Democrat | Outrage at decision to cut funding for security alarms
- Age Action | Funding cuts to alert scheme will undermine the ability of older people to live independently
- Radio Kerry | Kerry Cllr says Government has tough decisions to make
- Herald.ie | Anger as €1m cut from OAP alarm budget
- Tipperary Star | Safety Of Elderly “Further Diminished” – McGrath
- Sligo Today | Sligo dismay over cuts to alarms for elderly
- Dublin People | Elderly slam security funding cutbacks
- Northside People | Elderly slam security grant cutbacks
The Government then reversed the controversial decision to cut spending on personal security alarms for older people (Source: RTE | Government reverses elderly personal alarm decision).
Within six months the government had announced the transfer of the Seniors Alert Scheme to Pobal. [See also our Pobal page].
Seniors Alert Scheme | Transfer to Pobal (2014)
The Seniors Alert Scheme was transferred to Pobal by the department in 2014. Later that year it was restructured and advertised as a national tender. The first Pobal Seniors Alert Scheme, began operating in 2015 as a national framework.
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.
In early January 2013, the Government’s original decision to cut Seniors Alert Scheme funding met a storm of protest after it was communicated to voluntary organisations that administered the scheme. This led to the government reversing the controversial decision. Within six months the Seniors Alert Scheme had been transferred to Pobal.
When Pobal took over the scheme, the choice of alarm supplier was centralised and restricted. For instance, under the current scheme, only one monitored alarm supplier is currently authorised (in 2019) 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.”
Many parliamentary questions were tabled in Dáil Éireann about the transfer. For instance Deputy Brendan Ryan stated,
“I have received contact from community groups all over the county, and they have each told a similar story. This tender was announced without any consultation and its terms cast into real doubt the continued excellent level of service provided by community groups and service providers. I and my colleagues are asking that this process be put on hold in order to allow for proper in-depth engagement with community groups and service providers.
We need to protect these people and ensure that the quality of service and after care for the telecare systems are not compromised.
Other Deputies such as Deputy Michael Moynihan of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Tony McLoughlin of Fine Gael and also Deputy Michael Creed have received similar communications and share our concerns. This is a genuine cross-party call to the Department and to the Minister of State. We all share the concerns of the community groups that are dealing with this on the ground. They are the experts and they feel they have not been consulted properly. Efforts need to be made to facilitate real consultation on this matter in order, perhaps, to amend the terms of the tender to protect what is good and what works in the current scheme.
The big question is, what is the objective of the change? What is it supposed to achieve? The scheme works well as it is and the customers are very happy. What problem is the Department trying to solve?”
“What problem is the Department trying to solve?”
Our Sponsor TASK, in a meeting with Alan Kelly on 10th December 2014, also highlighted serious concerns about the scheme’s transfer to Pobal without consultation with community groups and suppliers.
According to official departmental documents which were subsequently obtained under Freedom of Information, following the meeting with TASK, the Minister decided that “the Department should now engage in a consultation process with suppliers and community groups, and subsequently consider re-issuing the tender”.
However, no such consultation with suppliers and community groups apparently ever took place, and the Seniors Alert Scheme tender began operating in 2015 as a framework contract. It continued for less than 12 months, before Pobal sent notice of its early termination to suppliers. The reason for the early termination, of what was originally advertised as a three year contract, has apparently never been publicly disclosed.
Seniors Alert Scheme (2017)
Following Pobal’s early termination of that 2015 Seniors Alert Scheme framework a newly structured Seniors Alert Scheme contract was awarded in 2017. This time the number of alarm suppliers who could supply monitored alarms under the Seniors Alert Scheme was further restricted, in number and geographically.
Seniors Alert Scheme (2018)
Since the award of the 2017 Scheme, spending on the Seniors Alert Scheme has quadrupled.
Pobal appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Development Committee to discuss Pobal’s operations on 30 January 2018. The committee meeting including Seniors Alert Scheme discussions can be viewed in full and a link is provided at the end our Pobal page.
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
Page Updated: 28 February 2019