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Pension Inequality Firmly on the Election 2020 Campaign Agenda

Age Action joined the SIPTU led coalition of non-governmental organisations for the launch of the STOP67 campaign in Dublin today (Thursday, 23rd January) which aims to halt the increase of the state pension age for workers to 67 from next year in order to address inequalities in the pension system.

Speaking at the formal campaign launch in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Kildare Street, Dublin, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley, said: “STOP67 is the SIPTU campaign to stop the increase of the state pension age to 67 on 1st January, 2021.

“SIPTU representatives are not surprised this is a major general election issue. We have been hearing from our members since the abolition of the transitional pension scheme in 2014 about the difficulties that the retirement gap has been causing for workers. This includes the absolute indignity of people coming up to 65 years of age who are expecting to get their pension and having to sign on the dole.”

National Women’s Council of Ireland Director, Orla O’Connor, said: “This is a core issue for women. Women rely on the state pension for the vast majority of their income in older age. So, anything that impacts on state pensions disproportionally impacts on women.”

Age Action Chief Executive, Paddy Connolly, said: “This campaign is not only about stopping the rise of the pension age to 67 but also the creation of a stakeholder forum which will consider issues such as finances, age discrimination and others that effect people in their retirement.”

Active Retirement Ireland chief executive, Maureen Kavanagh, said: “Ireland has the youngest population but the highest prospective retirement age in the EU. We are not under the demographic pressure of other countries. Retirement is a great part of life but it has to be voluntary, flexible and appropriate. We can’t force people out of a job that they love, or to stay in their job.”

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to make clear their position on the pensions issue.

He added: “All the other political parties are supporting the ‘STOP67’ campaign. The big two parties must make their position clear.”

Age Action & Active Retirement Ireland call people to vote for reform, not promises!

Put Older People at the Heart of the Next Government

 

Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland today launched their General Election 2020 manifesto.

The two leading organisations representing older people in Ireland are critical of pre-election promises that do not represent real change for older people and a fairer society for us all as we age.

Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland said, ‘The priority issues for the next government; health, housing, climate change and social welfare reform affect us all, including older people. We want people to vote for the political parties who are committed to ensuring the voice of older people is heard. Our members nationwide are demanding a voice at the table. A senior Minister for Older People is their number one demand.’

She continued, ‘our members want a Government that is committed to delivering an older person’s strategy across all Government departments. They want a Government that can demonstrate it is listening to their voice.’

Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action said, ‘the current debate on pension reform and the sudden about face of TDs in Government and political parties highlights the lack of focus and planning for our ageing population. Real pension reform would benchmark and index the pension in line with international good practice in tandem with leading the way to abolish discriminatory work practices including mandatory retirement clauses. A Government that is concerned for older people would ensure free travel is protected and rural transport is developed so that older people don’t become isolated.”

A key issue for members of both organisations is pension reform. Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland want the next Government not to introduce the planned increase in the pension age to 67 in 2021 because of the disjointed and poor approach to planning which is disproportionately impacting on older people.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said “Despite wide-ranging pension policy changes in recent years across the State pension age, method of calculation, rate and supplementary pensions, Government has provided no information as to how and when these will take effect.  As a result, people planning for - and coming imminently close to - retirement are left unaware of what pension they will qualify for and whether they will have sufficient time to plan for income security once they retire.”

Age Action and Active retirement Ireland have also called for the next Government to prioritise the commitment to introduce a new statutory homecare scheme in 2021, address the current waiting list for home supports and commission research on the cost of ageing to inform Ireland’s policy development that meets the needs of an ageing population.

Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland Priority Asks for General Election 2020

  1. Appoint a senior Minister for Older People

       Addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of ageing requires a whole-of-Government approach. Appoint a senior Minister for Older People, within the Department of An Taoiseach, with priority actions of developing a strategy that will respond to the needs of our ageing demographic.

  1. Depoliticise the State pension

       Indexing of current and future pension rates facilitates proper planning, it provides peace of mind for older workers and crucially it depoliticises the budget process. The next Government should benchmark the State Pension to 34% of average weekly earnings and apply a triple lock which guarantees that the basic rate rises each year by a minimum of 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth (whichever is the largest).

  1. Suspend the planned increase in the state pension age to 67 in 2021

       In the context of proposed increases to the State pension ages in the near future and the on-going lack of clarity around the new rules, it is simply not fair to raise the State pension age without adequate time for us all to prepare. The increase in the pension age to 68 will mean a cut of nearly 10% in pension income over a person’s lifetime in retirement.

  1. Appoint a Commissioner for Ageing with statutory powers to support their mandate

       Many older people feel left behind in the eyes of policymakers. An independent champion and advisor to government in the form of a Commissioner for Ageing is vital to promote cohesive, efficient, best practice government policy and services for our ageing population.

5.     Take ambitious climate action consistent with climate justice to protect people and the planet

      Climate action policies must be designed in such a way that the people and communities most vulnerable to negative impacts are identified and given voice so that measures are put in place to protect them and to enable them to reap the benefits of climate action.

ENDS

 

Are you a Lucky Raffle Winner?

Thanks to everyone who supported our Winter Warmer Raffle this Christmas!

The Raffle Winners have been drawn and the lucky winners are;

1st Prize: €1,500 - Joann Galvin, Dublin 15

2nd Prize: €1,000 - Esther Purcell, Kilkenny

3rd Prize: €500 - Deirdre Cahalan, Tipperary

Sellers Prize: €100 – Aine Reilly, Cork

If you would like to be included in future Age Action raffles to be in with a chance of winning a prize, please email fundraising@ageaction.ie or call 01 475 6989

To support Age Action’s work this Christmas donate at www.ageaction.ie/donate-now

Give A Christmas Gift that Counts!

No matter what age you are, feeling loved and cared for is important to all of us.

But at Christmas, companionship and support from friends and family means even more than usual – which is why feeling you are forgotten about or invisible is even harsher than at other times.

Older people often feel ignored or invisible and the festive season often exacerbates this sense of loneliness and isolation at a time that is synonymous with family and togetherness.

We work hard all year round to help older people face the different challenges that growing older brings, and with your help we want to make sure that no older person feels invisible, isolated or that they just don’t count.

This Christmas we are asking you to just take a moment to remember the older people in your family or community for whom Christmas might be a more difficult time.

By giving them as little as 5 minutes of your time, you can make a huge difference in brightening an older person’s day this Christmas! 

The design of the new Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings Scheme is inadequate and fails to address existing inequalities in the State pension system

 

 

Equality for older people requires the re-distribution of resources; power and influence; status and standing; and respect.  Many older people live in the most vulnerable situations in our society with no capacity to increase their income while dealing with the increasing cost of ageing. A new autoenrolment scheme that further drives existing inequalities is simply unacceptable

A Strawman proposal for the new autoenrolment scheme was published in August 2018. A number of substantial concerns were raised at this time regarding the lack of information and clarity around the new scheme. Publication of the revised scheme – with little change from the initial 2018 proposal – in October 2019 saw little additional information made available on a range of crucial areas.

Paddy Connolly, Age Action CEO notes: “Efforts to increase pension coverage, while ensuring greater numbers of people are kept above the poverty line and in income adequacy in retirement are welcome. However, details of the new auto-enrolment scheme offer little information on how the new scheme will be implemented across relevant sectors and outside of paid work, and how it will help prevent further inequalities between those in higher and lower earning jobs, according to gender, and for those who are long-term unemployed.”

 

Safeguarding Against Financial Abuse

Up to 20% of adults have experience of financial abuse, however many older adults still do not think that it could happen to them – according to new research commissioned by Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI).

The findings of the research have been published as part of a public awareness campaign, led by BPFI in partnership with Safeguarding Ireland, which is highlighting the need for greater awareness of the real risks of financial abuse and calling on all adults to better plan ahead to safeguard their finances.

Steps which people can take include:

  • Understanding and organising your day-to-day banking to best protect against financial abuse
  • Checking your bank account(s) regularly
  • Ensuring access for you, and only a trusted person if needed, to your money by putting in place an Enduring Power of Attorney.

Age Action welcomes the fact that research has been carried out on this often hidden issue of financial abuse. 

We welcome the focus on the issue particularly for those in a vulnerable situation which often includes older people, many of whom remain unaware of what constitutes financial abuse and where to go to seek help.

Those over 65 are a diverse group. However, it is clear that as we age, at different times many of us may face particular challenges to our financial independence due to difficulties in accessing and overseeing our own financial matters due to declining health issues, inability to access bank or post office branches and a lack of trusted supports. In order to safeguard those in a vulnerable situation – whether temporary or of a more longer term nature – it is crucial that financial and Government institutions continue to recognise the right and capacity of people to manage their own personal finances and to promote information on safeguarding finances in a clear and simple manner.

Age Action remains concerned about the increasing abuse referrals to the HSE Safeguarding Teams whose mandate is to protect vulnerable adults: 13,339 cases of abuse reported in 2018 alone, and many related to multiple abuse[1] including many from people worried about their own personal situations. Latest figures from the HSE National Safeguarding Office show that reports of psychological, financial and self-neglect, neglect abuse concerns all increase with age over 65 years.


 

 

Age Based Analysis of Mortgage Arrears Released for First Time

We welcome the publication, by the Irish Times, of data released for the first time by the Central Bank of Ireland that shows the number of people approaching, or already at retirement age, who are dealing wtih significant mortgage debt. The information gives a clearer picture of the worrying situation for Ireland’s ageing population. Simply, a lack of evidence exists on the cost of ageing with less complete data collected about us the older we become. As a result, crucial policy decisions are made without the availability of disaggregated and representative data which can result in discriminatory outcomes. We need an urgent rethinking of how we gather evidence and inform policy that meets the needs of a changing Ireland.

While there has been an assumption that older people close to, and in receipt of, the State pension are generally mortgage-free home owners, it is clear that this is no longer true with many still carrying large mortgages, in mortgage arrears or living in precarious private rentals with no security of tenure in older age. We should all have a choice to age in place which means the creation of age friendly environments, including the provision of support services locally, which enable people to remain in their own homes and in communities for longer; but the changing nature of homeownership, rising cost of living, and the lack of a coordinated policy response to the housing crisis means many people will be facing a very difficult situation in later life. 

Many older people live in the most vulnerable situations in our society. An increasing number are struggling to meet the rising cost of living – in particular costs around rent and mortgages - in the context of a State pension that sees many surviving on incomes only just above the poverty line. Latest CSO EU SILC figures show 1 in 10 older people at risk of poverty. New taxes, and rising prices in recent years have a greater impact on older people generally living on a fixed income with limited opportunities to improve their situation. Budget 2020 saw the income of older person headed households increase by €1.08 per week for those living with another person, and by €6.08 per week for those living alone in older age. It did not offer the majority of older people the support needed to meet the increasing costs of living and it did not offer a concrete plan to support us to age in place.

Ageist attitudes towards working later in life still exist, for example many older people have reported high levels of discrimination during recruitment. Discriminatory mandatory retirement clauses are still in place forcing people out of the workforce earlier than they may wish. These two things undermine people’s ability to continue working in later life whether by choice or necessity. In the context of a buoyant labour market, we urgently need a fundamental shift in how we view and support older workers.

An increasing number of older people are experiencing fear about retirement due to worries about income adequacy. Less than half of those working have a private or occupational pension to support them in later life. While Age Action welcomes the publication of the recent autoenrolment scheme by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection which will see increased pension coverage for more than an estimated half a million workers, the current design will further drive existing pension inequalities unless there is a targeted intervention to include people in low paid jobs, particularly women and long term unemployed.

Our economy has been built on the backs of those already in, and approaching, older age: these are the same women and men who lived through the Marriage Bar, shouldered several recessions and are now dealing with the accumulated disadvantages. Successive government policies have failed to adequately plan and provide for an ageing population which will ultimately impact on all of us throughout our lives. 

 

 

Progress on efforts to implement a human-rights based approach to health and social care

Age Action welcomes today’s publication of the ‘Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services’ published today by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in conjunction with Safeguarding Ireland.

Age Action supports a rights-based approach which empowers people to know and claim their rights. If people know and claim their rights in how they decide what health and social care services they wish to receive, this will in turn impact the quality of health and social care services as providers will be held to account to higher standards of person-centred care.

In addition to existing HIQA standards, today’s publication is a welcome resource to assist both service users and staff and organisations working with adults across health and social care services to understand how human rights principles apply in health and social care services on a day-to-day basis.

We are pleased to see that the publication includes discussion on the complex situations that occur in practice where many factors need to be considered, such as balancing an individual’s will and preferences, and – at times – competing human rights. We hope to see a better understanding across health and social care services of how to uphold human rights, and better guidance for staff in practice in overcoming the challenges that arise when the organisational protocols are seemingly at odds with a rights-based approach e.g. options for transgender people in single sex residential units.

Age Action remains disappointed that significant legislative and policy gaps continue to exist in the area. While enacted, the new Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will not be commenced until Q4 2020. Key elements which should be fast-tracked for commencement include: Arrangements for the making of Enduring Powers of Attorney; a legal framework for Advance Healthcare Directives. In addition, related legislation on the deprivation of liberty - which will provide safeguards for people living in or going to live in residential settings – has also seen delays in its progress into law.

An Adult Safeguarding Bill has been in development since 2017 to replace or cover out of date or non-existent legislation in the area. When underpinned by a regulatory framework for adult safeguarding, this will provide for the protection of at risk adults and statutory powers to ensure adherence.

The expedition of these legislative and resulting policy changes will ensure that rights, freedoms and dignity of people are promoted and protected.

ENDS

 

My Legacy Month

My Legacy Month is an initiative for the month of November during which My Legacy and their 65 member charities ask the public to consider leaving a legacy gift in their will to a charity they care about. But what exactly is this? It is simply a gift, something that you can give after you have made provisions for loved ones or family members in your will.

 

At Age Action we recognise that every legacy gift we receive means that we have been remembered by someone in their will and so it is particularly meaningful to us. We welcome the financial benefit, which helps us continue and develop existing services or can kick start innovative new initiatives, but more importantly the gift is evidence that the person believes that we have, or can, make a positive difference in the lives older people in Ireland.

 

One of the largest legacies Age Action received, to date, was just over €100,000 which helped us strengthen our Care and Repair service to provide practical support and social contact to older people with the aim of helping them to remain living in their own homes, for longer, in increased safety and comfort. Age Action understands that as people get older, maintaining their home can become more difficult, particularly if they are experiencing mobility issues. Simply changing a lightbulb or weeding the garden can be challenging and paying someone to do it can be expensive for people who depend on the State Pension. 

 

We also receive regular smaller legacy gifts, which are just as important and meaningful to us and highlight that anyone can plan to include a cause close to their heart, like Age Action, in their will regardless of the size of their estate.

 

Caroline O’Connell, Head of Fundraising at Age Action says “Leaving a legacy gift to Age Action means that we can continue to make a difference for Ireland’s ageing population, in your memory.”

 

To find out more about My Legacy including how to make a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out you can visit mylegacy.ie or if you want to talk about how your legacy gift could make a difference to Age Action you can contact Caroline at headoffundraising@ageaction.ie.

Did Budget 2020 Take Steps Towards a Fairer Society for an Ageing Population?

 

The Government's Budget 2020 choices did not include measures to address the inequalities faced by older people living in Ireland who are family members and contributors to our communities. Budget 2020 did not offer the majority of older people the support they need to meet the rising cost of living that is anticipated by the impacts of Brexit and it did not offer a concrete plan to support us to age in place.

 

Equality for older people requires the re-distribution of resources; power and influence; status and standing; and respect.  While the Government has increased some secondary benefits with the view to targeting people in the most vulnerable situations, which is a sensible approach, it has to be acknowledged that if people had adequate income to meet the true cost of ageing, they would be able to have choice over how to spend their money to best meet their specific needs.

The net affect of Budget 2020 on the income of older person headed households is;

  • Those under 80 and living with another person are €1.08 better off per week following Budget 2020 and have seen a weekly increase of €11.68 since 2009

 

  • For those under 80 and living alone, they are €6.08 better off per week following Budget 2020, and have seen a weekly increase of €20.48 on 2009 income

 

  • For those over 80 and living with another person, their weekly income has risen by €1.08 in Budget 2020, and €11.68 since 2009

 

  • For those over 80 and living alone, they are better off by €6.08 per week following Budget 2020, and €20.48 since 2009.

 

Some people who are over 80 are people in the most vulnerable situations in our society with no capacity to increase their income while dealing with the increasing cost of ageing. A person over 80, not living alone, received €1.08 per week to cope with Brexit, the carbon tax increase and the rising cost of living in 2020. It is on the backs of these people that our economy has been built: these are the same women and men who lived through the Marriage Bar, shouldered several recessions and are now dealing with the accumulated disadvantages. In working for equality, it is critical that we focus on equality of outcomes not just equality of opportunity.

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