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Criticism at level of payouts from emergency flood fund

Published 13/01/2016

The fund is intended to help those affected by flooding
The fund is intended to help those affected by flooding

Less than a quarter of a million from a 10 million euro emergency flood fund has been paid out to homes devastated by the recent deluge.

Social welfare chiefs accepted the 235,000 euro in payments - just over 2% of money set aside for flooded homes - was "small" but said they are still dealing with claims.

The publicly-funded Humanitarian Assistance Scheme was set up four years ago specifically to help homes deal with costs in the aftermath of major water damage.

Since the floods started in December, just 270 homes have been granted payments.

Jim Daly, a Fine Gael TD who says he spent the New Year clearing human faeces and water out of his flooded constituency office, attacked the flood fund for being bound up in red tape.

"My perception of this scheme is that it doesn't do what it is supposed to and what is was intended to do," he told a parliamentary watchdog hearing on the fund.

"So little has been administered. The criteria around the scheme is too strict, there's too much bureaucracy in it."

Mr Daly, who lives in flood-hit west Cork, also hit out at an income cap on the means-tested scheme, which asks households earning more than 70,000 euro to contribute towards the costs of their misfortune.

"When you see lives devastated, homes devastated and you say it is means tested - I think it is cruel and I think its wrong and I think we should review that," he said.

"People can not access insurance."

Helen Faughan, assistant secretary at the Department of Social Protection, said she expected payments from the 10 million euro fund to rise in the coming weeks.

"The 235,000 euro is just the beginning, we have not received any complaints to date, our feedback from the public is they are pleased with the reassurance we are offering," she said.

"Yes, (the payout) is small but we are still in emergency.

"For people whose houses are flooded we can't pay them yet for their fridges, cookers, etc.

"We do expect over the next couple of weeks the payments are going to ramp up substantially as people come and seek our help."

In 2014, the fund paid out 1.2 million euro to 480 homes hit by the floods that year.

Appearing before the Oireachtas committee on Education and Social Protection, Ms Faughan said payouts since the start of December were mostly to homes in Galway, Cork and Mayo, and mainly for clothing, food, toiletries and fuel.

Payments have also been made to affected homes in Tipperary, Westmeath, Clare, Kerry, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wicklow, Sligo and Roscommon.

Emergency clinics have also been set up in Ballinasloe and Gort, Co Galway; Athlone; Carrick on Suir in Co Tipperary; as well as a number of towns in Co Kilkenny.

Ms Faughan said financial help would also be given for the replacement of damaged essential household appliances as well as the cost of drying out homes.

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