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UN expert confirms older people need more protection

Lianne Murphy | Age Action | Ageing and Development | Tanzania
Written by: Lianne Murphy
Ageing & Development Officer
24/10/2016

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The UN Independent Expert on older people and human rights, Ms Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, has published a report which campaigners hope will energise the fight for a new international human rights treaty specifically for older people, writes Lianne Murphy.

Regular readers of the Age Action blog will know that discussion has been ongoing at the UN level for a number of years on whether a new treaty is necessary with some countries arguing that older people have enough protection.

However, Ms Kornfeld-Matte’s report concludes the that current international policy document on older people, the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, falls far short of what older people need.

She goes on to call on all UN member states, including Ireland, to consider a new treaty on the rights of older people.

Age Action strongly supports this position and believes that a convention would help older people here in Ireland and around the world.

It would bring clarity to the nature of older persons’ rights and also provide a way to deal with challenging issues that primarily affect older people such as elder abuse, long-term care and pensions. 

Older people failed

The current international human rights system has failed to do this and older people are almost never mentioned in existing human rights law. Like so many other areas, older people are invisible.

Age Action has been in contact with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Health to support the growing call for a new treaty at the Open Ended Working group on Ageing at the UN where it is going to be discussed from 12-15 December. To date, the Irish Government has been reluctant to support a new treaty.

However, we hope that the independent expert’s report and support from TDs and senators backing the campaign will encourage Ireland to act to effectively protect the rights of older women and men.

You can help! Write to Minister Charlie Flanagan TD, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 80 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 and the Minister responsible for Older People, Minister Helen McEntee TD, Department of Health, Hawkins House, Hawkins St, Dublin 2 and tell them to support a new human rights treaty for older people. 

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Comments

I fully support this call for older persons to be more fully protected by human rights. My own experience as a woman age 64 with a rare neuro-muscular disease in Ireland is one of 'medical neglect' . From the point of consultations in hospitals with consultants to primary care (HSE) in the community the most common attitude I experience is "you are too old to do tests, treat, and support". No-one actually articulates this (that would be professionally unethical) however there are means and ways of denying a service. The professional only has to argue "its not warranted or necessary" and the professional is believed. There is no good complaining to 'your say-your service', which only results in a HSE manager investigating (usually) the person whom you are complaining about for whom they are managerially responsible for. Thus this conflict of interest is very clear. How will this investigator say the person they manage is negligent. Ditto the ombudsman's office. The majority of HSE complaints are NOT upheld. This is because of bias I believe and the ability of the HSE to have top legal representation whilst the older person cannot. You can complain to the hospital but that results in another conflict of interest investigation process. After a while you are deemed somehow 'mad' for raising complaints at all and further medical neglect and refusal of treatment ensues. There is a very, very strong 'medical elder apartheid' they resources for older persons medical and community care is not allocated. We are the 'useless eaters'; as Hitler called the sick, old, disabled, and others deemed not viable citizens - he gassed them. They don't do that but by subtle means we are being metaphorically 'gassed'. I have experienced this 'older-persons' 'euthanasia by stealth, I fight it with all my might, but its pernicious, nasty and common. I don't think I'm paranoid. I'm a former academic in social care. I see the reality. its very frightening indeed.

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Age Action Calls for €9 per week Rise In Old Age Pension in Budget 2020

Organisation also proposes that Government commission research on the Cost of Ageing to ensure policy meets needs of ageing population

Age Action, the advocacy organisation for older people, has called for the state’s Old Age Pension to increase by €9 per week in Budget 2020. The call was made at today’s Pre-Budget Forum, which is being organised by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and is being held in Dublin Castle’s Conference Centre.

Celine Clarke, Age Action’s Head of Advocacy and Communications, said that a €9 increase in the weekly Old Age Pension would be a key step in building towards the Government’s own commitment that the pension should be set at 35% of average weekly earnings.

“The National Pensions Framework was published almost 10 years ago and it committed the Government to benchmarking the Old Age Pension at 35% of average weekly earnings. In order to move the current pension payment towards the delivery of that target, we are calling on the Government to increase the weekly pension payment by €9,” Celine Clarke said.

Ms Clarke provided additional context to Age Action’s call for a €9 per week pension rise, when she explained that in 2009, the weekly income for pensioners depending on the State – when all the benefits were added together – was €265.44, this year it’s €273.63 – only €7.89 higher than it was higher than it was 10 years ago. 

“While pensions have increased by a welcome €5 per week over the last few years, there is no clear and transparent formula informing these increases, and Ireland is also unusual in setting the pension rate in the budget every year. Age Action is urging the Government to consider applying a triple lock formula for pension increases – namely, guaranteeing that the basic State pension will rise by a minimum of either 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is the larger.”

In addition to the proposals on pension increases, Age Action is also calling for:

  • The commissioning of research by Government on the Cost of Ageing to inform the development of policy so that the country can meet the needs of our ageing population – a similar exercise has been carried out in relation to the Cost of Disability;
  • Increase the income threshold for all means-tested benefits in line with increases to the Old Age Pension and secondary benefits;
  • Increase the Living Alone Allowance by €5 per week;
  • Increase the Fuel Allowance rate by €2.35 and reintroduce a 32-week payment period.

Pre-Budget Submission to Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

ENDS