Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, has called on the Government to restore the incomes of older people after years of cutbacks.
Publishing its top priorities for Budget 2018 the organisation also highlighted the need to invest in home help services and reablement to support older people to stay at home.
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “The income of an older person on the State Pension and the Household Benefits Package today is still less than it was in 2009.
“Cuts to income supports like the Fuel Allowance and the Telephone Allowance, combined with rising prices and new taxes, are driving ever more older people into poverty. CSO figures show a steady increase in poverty levels among the over-65s from 2013 to the latest report for 2015.
“Pensioners are increasingly afraid of being taxed out of their homes or of being forced into a nursing home because there are no home supports available.
“Next month the Government must deliver a fair budget for older people, one that recognises the contributions made over decades by more than 600,000 workers, homemakers, carers and businesspeople who are now pensioners.”
Earlier this year hundreds of Age Action members met across the country and agreed their priorities for this year’s budget, which have been costed and published today:
- Increase the State Pension by €5, working towards the Government’s target of a pension at 35 per cent of average earnings;
- Increase the Living Alone Allowance by €3 to support those older people most at risk of poverty;
- Reverse the 2012 cuts to the State Pension which have cut the incomes of tens of thousands of pensioners;
- Increase home help hours to provide the service to an additional 22,300 people in 2018;
- Introduce a reablement programme to support 16,000 older people to live independently.
Crisis in homecare
Age Action today also highlighted the need for investment in supports to enable older people to remain longer in their homes. The HSE budget for older people is still less than it was in 2009 despite a 23 per cent increase in the number of older people.
Justin Moran continued: “Our home care services are in crisis. Across Ireland almost 5,000 people are on home help waiting lists and the unmet need is estimated to be over 22,000.
“Home help hours and home care packages are simply not available in many parts of the country. This means more older people forced unnecessarily into nursing homes, more families struggling to cope without home helps and more pressure on carers.”
Age Action is also proposing an investment of €22 million in a reablement programme for 16,000 older people as a cost-effective way of supporting older people to stay at home.
Tailored reablement programmes, usually with support from an occupational therapist, are provided to people in their own homes for between three to 12 weeks.
A HSE report produced by Mazars showed reablement programmes in England were cost-effective and reduced the need for homecare. There was also a successful pilot project in north Dublin.
Justin Moran continued: “We know reablement works. An intensive reablement programme greatly reduces, even eliminates, an older person’s need for home support.
“We’ve seen it succeed in Ireland with a pilot study in north Dublin and now we’re urging the Government to invest in reablement as a smart, evidence-based, approach to enabling older people to stay at home.”
Along with its key priorities, Age Action also published detailed submissions it made to a number of individual government departments, which are available below.