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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.

Raising the Roof - Homes for All Ages

Raise the Roof Rally for Housing 18 May

Preparing to Raise the Roof

Age Action, motivated by intergenerational solidarity, is joining the Raise the Roof campaign to tackle the continuing housing crisis that is affecting people of all ages.  People are being mobilised through trade unions and community organisations, to stage a major national rally on the housing crisis under the banner of Raise the Roof, in Dublin on Saturday May 18.

When people take an interest in what is happening in their local community, seek solutions to problems and initiate improvements they are being active citizens. Community is the foundational building block of society and housing is fundamental to community. Ireland’s housing crisis is rightly dominating public discourse as it undermines our ability to live with dignity as part of a community.  Ireland’s changing demographic brings with it a changing demand for homes that meet the needs of an ageing population.

The Government’s failure to deliver on a whole of Government approach to ageing and provide good quality social housing to meet demand has resulted in older people feeling subjected to negative, ageist language about their needs and wishes for suitable housing and health supports as is evidenced in the narrative on ‘down-sizing’ or ‘right-sizing’.

In the 60s and 70s the State implemented policies to support owner occupation of housing. People on lower incomes were able to buy their own homes which went some way to addressing wealth inequalities. According to Professor Tony Fahey, writing in Social Justice Ireland’s book ‘From Here to Where?’, by the year 2000 even low-income households owned substantial housing wealth and were less disadvantaged by inequalities in housing wealth than they were by inequalities in income.

Most of the growing population of young private renters today grew up in homes that were owned by their parents. Prof Fahey identified the essential features of secure long-term housing as being affordable, and having secure tenure. As he says, “today’s private rented housing has neither of these features”.

Looking at the future needs of an ageing population, for those aged 50-54 almost 10% were renting from private landlords at the time of Census 2016. It can be assumed that these people will continue in the rental market beyond their working years which leaves them in a vulnerable situation.

We encourage any and all of you who can to be active citizens and march with us on Saturday May 18 in a show of intergenerational solidarity. We will be gathering at 1pm at Parnell Square. You will find us behind an Age Action banner. At 2pm we will march down O'Connell Street towards Custom House Quay and join the Rally for Housing (location to be confirmed) by 3pm.

For more information about the campaign visit www.raisetheroof.ie