Age Action has urged the Government to provide increased funding in this year’s Budget for essential supports for older people who are struggling in the wake of a series of austerity budgets.
“Ahead of recent budgets we have steered away from asking for increased social welfare payments for older people, given the state of the national finances, but we feel the Government must act in October to provide increased supports, given the scale of misery and hardship which our members revealed to us during our national series of consultation meetings across Ireland earlier this year,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. He was speaking ahead of today’s pre-Budget forum in Dublin, due to be attended by the Social Protection Minister Joan Burton and her department’s senior officials.
“We have heard personal accounts of people remaining in bed for pro-longed periods because they could not afford to heat their homes to a safe level, and people being forced to choose between food, fuel and medication because they could not afford all three. Knowing what we know, it would be morally wrong of us not to demand increases in key support payments. The choices some older people are being forced to make are totally unacceptable.”
The older people’s charity highlighted the scale of the challenge facing older people, especially those living alone on low incomes, at today’s forum. In doing so, it stressed the need for a number of increased supports including:
- a €5 a week increase in the State Pension (which has been frozen since January, 2009);
- the restoration of the Christmas bonus (abolished in 2009);
- a €3.80 per week rise in the Living Alone Allowance (which has not increased since 1996);
- a reversal in the fuel payment cuts and changes made in recent budgets.
“On the one hand, older people have been hit by a series of cuts in recent budgets and increased charges in recent years, ranging from the abolition of the telephone allowance, and cuts to fuel supports,” Mr Timmins said. “On the other hand, they have faced a five-fold increase in prescription charges, the loss of Medical Cards as income limits have come down, soaring prices and a range of new taxes and charges, all of which must be paid from their fixed incomes.”
The older people’s charity will also be seeking clarity from Minister Burton of the purpose of a review her department commissioned into the travel pass scheme for older people. Age Action will be seeking an unambiguous commitment that she will not negatively change the scheme for older people now, or after she receives the review group’s report.
“The travel pass is a vital support for older people, enabling them to live with dignity and independence in their own homes,” Mr Timmins said. “Any negative changes to the scheme would have knock-on effects on older people.”
Age Action’s pre-Budget submission is available at www.bit.ly/VI0mxQ