Age Action today urged the Government to take meaningful steps in the forthcoming Budget to assist older people who are struggling as a result of the cumulative effect of recent austerity budgets.
“Many older people are struggling to heat their homes, pay for their medications and adapt their homes so they can continue to live in them,” Age Action’s Head of Advocacy and Communications Eamon Timmins said. “The choices which older people are being forced to make – choosing between food, fuel and medication – are simply unacceptable.”
Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection, the older people’s charity outlined the results of research it carried out earlier this year with its members across Ireland to assess the impact which austerity measures were having. “From people going to bed early and staying in bed longer in the morning in order to stay warm, to people cutting back on food, older people revealed how they were suffering in silence,” Mr Timmins said.
On the one hand key income supports (such as the fuel allowance and the telephone allowance) have been cut or abolished in recent budgets, while on the other hand there have been increased demands in the form of taxes and charges (such as the property tax and prescription charges) on their fixed incomes.
Cuts to Medical Cards and health service budgets were having a disproportionate impact on the sickest and frailest of older people, Age Action told the meeting. Almost 18,000 medical cards have been withdrawn in the last 12 months. This year the HSE aims to provide 1.7 million few hours of home help, than they provided in 2010 – despite the growing needs of our ageing population.
Among the 36 recommendations in their pre-Budget submission, Age Action is calling for:
- An increase the weekly rate of the State Pension by €5 per week
- Restoration of the Christmas bonus
- An increase the Living Alone Allowance by €3.80 in order to restore some real value to its purchasing power
- Reversal of the fuel payment cuts and changes made in recent budgets.
“In recent budget submissions we have not sought increases in key income supports, but campaigned instead to protect existing payment rates,” Mr Timmins said. “However, having asked people about the reality of their lives, and understanding the unacceptable scale of suffering which people are enduring, it would be morally wrong of us not to demand that the Government acts to protect these people in the October budget.”
Age Action’s presentation coincided with the publication of the Global AgeWatch Index 2014 which shows that Ireland fell from 12th to 17th place last year.
The index ranks 96 countries according to the social and economic wellbeing of older people. The poll was topped by Norway with Afghanistan at the foot of the table.
FOR MEDIA QUERIES CONTACT EAMON TIMMINS, HEAD OF ADVOCACY AND COMMUNICATIONS, AGE ACTION, 01-4756989 OR 0879682449.
Notes to the editor
- Age Action’s full pre-Budget submission can be read at the link below: