Age Action has given a guarded welcome to Budget 2015, noting that some measures announced today will ease a little of the hardship being experienced by groups of older people who have been struggling to cope in the wake of a series of austerity budgets.
Measures such as increasing the entry point for the Universal Social Charge to €12,000 will mean savings equivalent to more than a week’s pension for low income older people. The partial restoration of the Christmas bonus is also welcome and will result in a cash payment of between €54 and €57 for State Pensioners.
“In our pre-Budget submission we had sought a full restoration of this important payment at one of the most expensive times of the year for older people when they are faced with large fuel bills,” Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said. “Today’s announcement falls far short of this, but the cash payment will help.”
Age Action welcomed the decision to increase the Living Alone Allowance by €1.30, to bring it to €9 per week. This will benefit 180,000 older people. “This payment has not been increased since 1996, despite the increased hardship which older people face paying bills such as heating and property tax from a single pension,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. “We had sought an increase of €3.80 to restore some of the buying power of this payment, so the actual increase represents just a third of this. But it will provide some assistance.”
The level of increased support announced today must be viewed in the context of the scale of the problems faced by older people in the wake of a series of austerity budgets. “Our nationwide consultation with members earlier this year revealed that older people were making unacceptable decisions in a bid to live within their means, faced with rising costs, reducing supports and new and increasing taxes and charges,” Mr Timmins said. “Older people are being forced to choose between food, fuel and medication because their budget did not give them the option of being able to afford all three.”
“Today’s announcements will give older people a few more Euro each week, which we welcome, but it will not mean the end of hardship which many of them face daily,” Mr Timmins said.
Age Action noted the Government’s commitment to end the pension levy at the end of 2015. As flagged last year, the levy will be charged on private pension funds at 0.15% next year, compared to 0.75% in 2014.
“The levy was a poor policy decision from day one, and over the past four years has done considerable damage to the savings of people trying to make provision for their retirement,” Mr Timmins said. “The real cost of the levy will not be seen for years to come when a person retires.”