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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.

AGE ACTION CRITICISES GOVERNMENT FOR BEING CONTENT TO KEEP OLDER PEOPLE HOVERING ON POVERTY LINE

AGE ACTION CRITICISES GOVERNMENT FOR BEING CONTENT TO KEEP OLDER PEOPLE HOVERING ON POVERTY LINE

Failure to increase pensions contradicts Government’s commitments under National Pensions Framework

Reducing tax breaks for private pensions could have allowed Government to tackle significant income inequality among older people

Age Action CEO, Paddy Connolly, says that older people will be disappointed but probably not surprised by the Government’s failure to increase the Old Age Pension for 2020. Mr Connolly said that the tone of the Government’s message to older people in the lead up to the Budget has been that they shouldn’t expect much by way of income improvements. However, Paddy Connolly welcomed the Budget measures to tackle income inequalities in childhood which he said would help protect against the accumulation of disadvantage later in life for future generations of older people.

“The Government’s own National Pensions Framework committed it to benchmarking the State Pension at 35% of average weekly earnings. In order to move the current pension payment towards the delivery of that target, Age Action called on the Government to increase the weekly pension payment by €9.

“What’s most disappointing is that this increase was eminently achievable – at no extra cost to the State – by reducing the tax breaks on private pensions to 33%, as proposed by the National Pensions Framework. Reducing these tax breaks would not alone provide the funds for significant increases for all pensioners, it would also help to reduce the massive income inequality that exists amongst older people,” Paddy Connolly said.

Mr Connolly welcomed the increase in the Living Alone Allowance, rise in the Medical Card income thresholds for over 70s as well as increases in some secondary benefits but questioned whether older people would see any real net benefit in their pockets particularly because of rising fuel prices. He also challenged the Government to commission research on the cost of ageing to establish the true costs of growing old in Ireland.

Paddy Connolly welcomed the commitment to increase spending on home support provision and called on the Government to expedite home care legislation.

“The vast majority of older people wish to spend their later years in their own home, close to family and community, and not to be forced into nursing homes due to a shortage of home care packages. In this context, we welcome the Government’s commitment to provide an additional one million hours for home care. However, it’s vital that the promise of home care legislation by 2021 is delivered upon,” Age Action’s Paddy Connolly concluded.

ENDS

The Home Care Coalition seeks €110m funding for Home Supports ahead of Budget 2020

 

Coalition urges action in report ‘Experiences from the Grassroots’, as waiting list for Home Supports Service increases to 7,348 people

The Home Care Coalition, a group of 22 charities and not-for-profit organisations of which Age Action is a member, released a report highlighting the challenges faced by older people and people with disabilities when accessing essential home care services on 4 October. The Coalition is seeking an investment of €110 million in Budget 2020 to provide the necessary levels of support for people who are already receiving home support services and to meet the growing demand for new home care packages, with recent reports indicating that the waiting list has increased to 7,346 people.

The report, ‘Experiences from the Grassroots’, highlights experiences of delayed discharges and lengthy waiting lists seen by member organisations, including cases of older people and people with life-limiting illnesses remaining in hospitals for months longer than medically necessary due to lack of home care supports. This is despite reports that priority for home supports is being given to people in acute hospitals to enable them to be discharged, as a shortage of home supports services directly contributes to a lack of available hospital beds.

The Coalition highlights that although there have been numerous reassurances that access to home care has not been frozen, this is not reflective of their experiences on the ground, with one organisation highlighting a case in which the family of an older woman were told not to bother applying home care as they would not get it due to the length of the waiting list, and another being told in number of regions they were not allowed to use the word ‘embargo’.
Members of the Coalition range from NGOs working with older people and people with disabilities and long-term illnesses, to organisations working directly with carers, to groups working in the primary care sector.

“It is unacceptable that no action is being taken as we simply watch the waiting list for home supports continue to rise,” said a spokesperson for the Coalition, ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “We have seen in recent weeks that there was a record number of delayed discharges this summer when 769 people remained in hospitals nationwide who did not need to be there, many of whom were waiting for step down support services. Meanwhile we know that in some areas there is simply no funding for new home supports packages. Explanations that the HSE do not want to overrun their budget are simply not good enough when there are thousands of people on waiting lists unable to access the services they need.”

As well as challenges in accessing home supports, the Coalition note that the service itself is under-resourced and that issues remain with the quality of the service provided. Issues faced by the older people and people with disabilities when accessing home care services include insufficient staff training, under-resourcing of home care staff, insufficient standards and quality systems, inadequate safeguarding and monitoring, and inconsistencies across areas in terms of prioritisation, access and assessment processes.  

The underresourcing of the home supports service affects more than the person who needs home care; it impacts their families, home care workers, and the health system at large. The lack of clarity regarding the legal obligation of the State to provide care to older people and people with disabilities, as well as a lack of qualified home care workers, has put pressure on family members to take on the role of carer. Home care workers themselves are overstretched, while family carers find the services available inadequate to meet their needs.

It is vital that the budget for the Home Supports Service is increased in line with demand by €110 million this year. We recognise that the Department of Health is working on a new statutory scheme for home care which the Coalition is contributing to, and we hope that the new scheme will solve some of the challenges that people who are in need are experiencing every day with the home supports service. The scheme will represent a vital part of Sláintecare and we support its implementation. However, older people, people with disabilities, and their families, can’t put care off until the new scheme is introduced.

 

On United Nations International Day of Older Persons Age Action CEO writes Society Must Collectively Tackle Inequality Facing Older People

Writing in the Irish Examiner on International Day of Older Persons, Paddy Connolly says we need to challenge our view of ageing and overcome the structural barriers to equality for all ages 

ONE of the clearest signs of how much progress we’ve made as a society since Independence is the massive increase in life expectancy. In 1916, average life expectancy was 53 years, now, more than 100 years later, average life expectancy has increased by almost 30 years to 81.61 years — a tremendous achievement.

To reap the benefits of this demographic bounty, we, as a society, need to challenge our view of ageing and overcome the structural barriers to equality for all ages.

To continue reading the op-ed visit Irish Examiner here 

Accumulated Disadvantage Extends into Retirement

The ESRI report published today, 1 October 2019, ‘The ageing workforce in Ireland: working conditions, health and extending working lives’ shows that accumulated disadvantages seen throughout the working life are evident – and often exacerbated – well into retirement, particularly for women and those working in physically demanding roles.

The report notes an increased level of people over 55 years old working in Ireland (up from 10% in 1998 to 20% in 2018), which is well above the OECD average. However, there is wide variance in who is remaining working for longer, and whether that is for choice or necessity. Almost 7% of those aged 55-59 left employment early due to family care, with women five times more likely to have left paid employment early for care duty reasons. Today, one in ten people is a carer in Ireland, with 61% of carers being women. The State needs to value unpaid work and ensures that structural barriers to working, while balancing caring duties, are addressed in order to mitigate against accumulated disadvantage when people, and women in particular, become eligible for a pension.

Additional research published today is an Irish Life report which also notes the impact on women of disrupted labour patterns within the existing pay gap. The report shows that women have an average of 22% less – or €120,000 – in their pension pot at retirement compared to men. This is true even in cases where women are making the same pension contributions as men, and likely reflects the existing gender pay gap and lower wages earned by women.

Simply, the current employment disadvantages will transfer into pension disadvantages. In the context of rising State pension ages, targeted efforts are needed. Government and industry efforts are urgently needed to address the structural barriers that impede women, parents and carers to remain in, or return to, the labour market, if that is their choice.  Measures such as flexible working approaches and hours, targeted employment training interventions and reskilling are some such measures. These will only work in conjunction with the availability of affordable and secure childcare as well as sufficient home care hours available under a statutory scheme.

The journey to equality in older age begins at an earlier age. Both these reports are evidence that disadvantages in our working lives extend into the range of choices available to us all in older age, including access to employment as well as adequate income security.

 

 

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