Age Action has given a guarded welcome to the Government’s plans for water charges and measures to protect older people, agreed at today’s Cabinet meeting. But it noted that the full impact of the charges on older people will not be known until all details of the tariff package have been decided.
“As with any national scheme, the devil will be in the detail and we need to see how these charges will pan out, but we note that the plan announced today includes a number of key principles which, if properly implemented, should provide greater protection against poverty for older people,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said.
The older people’s charity welcomed the decision to drop the original plans for standing charges, which would have penalised low income households, and especially older people living alone.
Age Action also welcomed the decision to pay €100 annually to carers and recipients of State Pension and disability pension as a poverty protection measure. Whether this will be sufficient to protect older people – especially those living alone -- against large water bills will depend on the unit price of water (ie how much water will €100 buy).
The decision to provide state funds to Irish Water to cover the “first fix free” scheme is also welcome.
Age Action had urged the Government to provide measures to support those with greater water needs as a result of their special medical needs, on the basis that they have greater sanitation and laundry requirements. It welcomes the Government’s decision to cap charges for people in these circumstances, although the detail has still to be worked out by Government as to who will qualify. This support scheme must be flexible enough to recognise the changing needs of older people with progressive illnesses and as well as those who become suddenly ill.
For those who are not metered and will receive estimated bills, Age Action welcomes the Government’s decision to base these charges on the principle of house occupancy levels, adding that this would provide greater protection to older people living alone.