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Budget 2017 must deliver on pension pledge

Age Action has called on the Government to deliver on its election commitment to raise the State Pension by €25 over five years by providing a €5 increase in Budget 2017.

Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people today set out its top priorities for next month’s budget.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “Growing old in Ireland shouldn’t mean growing afraid, but it does.

“Pensioners are afraid of losing their home because of rising property taxes. They’re afraid of getting sick and relying on an ailing public health system.

“They’re afraid of being unable to afford medicine or to heat their homes. They’re afraid of going into a nursing home because there is no community care available.

“In February of this year, older people were promised that the State Pension would be increased by €25 a year over the next five years.

“Budget 2017 is the Government’s opportunity to make clear to almost 600,000 people over the age of 65 that the promises made to them will be honoured.”

During the summer hundreds of Age Action members met across the country and agreed their priorities for this year’s budget:

  • Increase the State Pension by €5;
  • Restore the Fuel Allowance and Telephone Allowance over the next two budgets;
  • An additional €73.8 million to fund 4.1 million home help hours;
  • The abolition of prescription charges for medical card holders.

Justin Moran continued: “The National Pensions Framework says that the State Pension should be maintained at 35 per cent of average earnings to keep pensioners out of poverty.

“But the State Pension is more than €13 below that target. More than 85,000 people over the age of 65 are living in deprivation and that number is rising.  

“Next month the Government can help to restore the incomes of pensioners, cut by successive austerity budgets, stand by its election pledge and deliver for our senior citizens.” 

Home supports

Age Action also highlighted the need for investment in supports to enable older people to remain longer in their homes.

Between 2004 and 2013 there was a 44 per cent increase in the number of older people living in nursing homes classified by the HSE as being ‘low dependency’. Funding for home help services fell from €211 million in 2011 to €185 million last year despite rising demand.

Justin Moran continued: “Our community care system is in crisis. Government policy says that we must support people to stay at home as long as possible.

“But the practice is to push more and more older people into nursing homes to the point that Ireland has the second highest proportion of people aged 65 and over in nursing homes and hospitals.

“The only way this is going to change is with a substantial increase in funding for home help services in this October’s budget and Age Action members will be making sure this message is heard."

As well as identifying the top priorities for older people in Budget 2017, Age Action also made individual submissions to a number of Government departments.

Age Action is calling for a Digital Allowance to support the Digital Inclusion of Older People and a Study on the Cost of Ageing in Budget 2021

(30 July 2020) 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation on ageing and older people is calling for Budget 2021 to include a digital allowance in the form of a €2.50 increase to the Telephone Support Allowance and a broadening of the eligibility criteria to support older people to access digital technology.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Digital exclusion is a reality for at least 33% of people over the age of 65 with the associated cost being one of the barriers to access for older people. We know that communication costs have increased during COVID-19 as people became more reliant on digital communications as a means of communicating with family, health professionals, arranging essential services and addressing social isolation.  In the context of an increasing reliance on telehealth measures and public health advice, Age Action urges the Government to increase the Telephone Support Allowance, introduced in June 2018 at a weekly rate of €2.50, to €5 and for a broadening of the eligibility criteria which is narrowly confined to those getting the Living Alone Allowance who are also eligible for the Fuel Allowance.’

Government services now actively prefer transactions to be digital under a “Digital First”approach, encouraging people to carry out their tax returns, and apply to r enew their driving licences and passports online. The Public Service ICT Strategy prioritises the digitisation of ‘the main existing citizen and business transactional services across Public Services’. There is an increasing reliance on digital channels to provide information by both the public and private sector which undermines people’s ability to access information which was very evident during the height of the pandemic. In a recent CSO survey of households of those over 60 and not online, the second greatest challenge to people who said they needed access to broadband, after lack of digital skills, was the perceived prohibitive cost.

‘Older people are being left behind because they do not have adequate access or skills to engage with digital services or participate in the digital economy; providing a digital allowance as well as investing in one-to-one digital literacy training that meets the needs of older people, is critical to bridging the digital divide. The new National Digital Skills Strategy committed to under the Programme for Government will have budgetary implications; Budget 2021 should begin to support older people to keep up’ Connolly said.