Age Action is concerned by media reports today that Irish Water is seeking the introduction of a standing charge – higher than the international average – for water services as part of the payment model due to be introduced next year.
Media reports suggest that the charge being sought would equate to one-third of the average annual household bill -- or about €100 per annum. “The fact that the charge represents such a large percentage of the average bill does not augur well for the creation of a payment model which would protect low income households,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said. “The provision of water is a basic human right and the payment model must recognise a person’s ability to pay.”
A high standing charge would have a greater impact on low income households. Age Action is particularly concerned about the impact this would have on pensioners living alone, many of whom are already struggling to survive on a single pension. Over 30% of older people live alone in Ireland.
“A high standing charge would mean that before they even turn on the tap, low income pensioners would be hit,” Mr Timmins said. “We still do not know how many free units the Government will allow before charges kick in, but if the Commission for Energy Regulation accepts Irish Water’s proposals for a high standing charge it will disproportionately hit those who can least afford to pay regardless of the free allocation.”
Age Action believes that, in addition to the free allocation of water units, an extra provision should be made for households where medical conditions mean that a person has a greater need for water.
The older people’s charity also believes that the model for estimating unmetered houses should take into consideration the number of people living in a home. Age Action believes using the number of people living in a house to estimate water consumption would be the fairest way to protect older people living alone.