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CSO report shows falling income and rising poverty among older people

Published 15/08/2013

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Age Action is concerned but not surprised by today’s CSO report which shows marked rises in poverty among older people and a fall in their average income between 2009 and 2011.

“The fact that the average income of people aged over 65 fell by 5%, combined with the rise in poverty levels over such a short period, only shows part of the difficulties which many older people are currently facing,” according to the spokesperson for the older people’s charity Eamon Timmins. “On the other side of the equation there are new charges and rising prices which have to be met from these declining incomes.  These increase taxes, charges and costs have escalated since these statistics were gathered, leaving many older people seriously struggling to make ends meet.”

The CSO’s Thematic Report on the Elderly uses findings from the Survey on Income and Living Conditions from 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2011.  It shows that the consistent poverty rate among older people has risen from 1.1% to 1.9% between 2009 and 2011.  The deprivation rate has increased from 9.5% to 11.3% over the same period.

The average gross weekly equalised income has fallen 5% to €407.28.    The main factors driving down income include falling earnings and reduced occupational pensions.  The report shows that among those hit hardest are those living alone, women and those living in rural areas.

“Age Action is not surprised that the poverty indicators for older people are rising, with financial pressures increasing substantially on older people in the last 18 months,” Mr Timmins said. “Property tax, a trebling of the prescription charge and soaring energy prices are just some of the increased costs which have been introduced since 2011, with older people having to pay them from a declining income.  The increased costs are on unavoidable elements of their cost of living – a roof over their head, essential medication and heat.”

A number of older people told Age Action during its national pre-Budget consultation earlier this year how they were left to choose between food and fuel during the pro-longed winter and Spring this year.   The inability to afford to heat a home or the inability to afford an adequate diet are among the poverty indicators used to calculate the deprivation rate.

“The cumulative effect of multiple cuts on one side and rising cost and taxes on the other, is hurting many older people and must be addressed by the Government in the October budget,” Mr Timmins said.

 

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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.