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Budget 2019

Published 03/10/2018

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Budget 2019

Age Action calls for a fair budget on 9th October that protects older people

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, has called on the Government to protect the incomes of older people and to invest in home care.

“Next week the Government must deliver a budget which protects older people, one that recognises the contribution made over decades by more than 600,000 workers, homemakers, carers and entrepreneurs who are now pensioners” said Anna McCabe, Interim CEO, Age Action.

Publishing its top priorities for Budget 2019 the organisation is highlighting the need to increase the state pension to meet the rising costs of living for older people and to tackle inadequate home care provision.

Rising Costs of Living

“Pensioners are increasingly worried about being able to pay their essential bills or of being forced into a nursing home because there are no home supports available” said Anna McCabe, Interim CEO, Age Action.

She went on “A growing number of older people worry about making ends meet in the face of rising costs such as healthcare, energy bills and insurance. Many of these increased costs are solely related to age.”

Older people are slow to benefit from the improved economic climate and are showing a slower recovery from poverty. Cuts made in recent years to income supports such as the Fuel Allowance, the Bereavement Grant and the Christmas Bonus, combined with new taxes and rising prices, are causing many older people to remain at risk of poverty.

Earlier this year hundreds of Age Action members met across the country and agreed their priorities for this year’s budget, which have been costed and published today:

  1. Increase the weekly State Pension by €5 per week to build towards achieving the Government's commitment in the National Pensions Framework of a State Pension set at 35 per cent of average weekly earnings [Cost: €160.9 million]
  2. Increase the cost of the Living Alone Allowance by €3 per week [Cost: €32.8 million]
  3. Reverse the changes introduced in 2012 to the State Pension system reducing the number of bands from six to four [Cost: €73 million]
  4. Increase the Home Supports budget by 26% to begin to meet unmet need. [Cost: €106 million].
  5. As a first step towards reinstating the over 70s medical card, expand the range of services provided by the GP visit card to include prescriptions to those over 70 [Cost: €61.5 million].
  6. Remove the GMS prescription charge for over 70s medical card holders [Cost: €42 - 44 million]

Crisis in Homecare

Age Action today also highlighted the need for investment in supports to enable older people to remain in their homes for longer.

The numbers of home help hours and people in receipt of the service have dropped since 2008, despite the sharp growth in our ageing population.

“Every year 20,000 more people turn 65, and we will need an additional 7.2 million Home Help Hours a year by 2030. This unmet need is particularly worrying given that 6,458 older people were waiting for new and additional Home Support services as of May of this year” said Anna McCabe.

Ireland needs a Statutory Home Care Scheme

“Home help hours and home care packages are simply not available in many parts of the country, with provision of care varying greatly across the regions. This means many older people simply do not have the option of being cared for at home, more families are struggling to cope without home help, and there is more pressure on carers.”

“We need a functioning home care scheme now.”

Along with its key priorities, Age Action also published detailed submissions it made to a number of individual government departments, which are available online at www.ageaction.ie/budget2019 ### For more information contact Corona Joyce 087 968 2449 or advocacy@ageaction.ie

 

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Age Based Analysis of Mortgage Arrears Released for First Time

We welcome the publication, by the Irish Times, of data released for the first time by the Central Bank of Ireland that shows the number of people approaching, or already at retirement age, who are dealing wtih significant mortgage debt. The information gives a clearer picture of the worrying situation for Ireland’s ageing population. Simply, a lack of evidence exists on the cost of ageing with less complete data collected about us the older we become. As a result, crucial policy decisions are made without the availability of disaggregated and representative data which can result in discriminatory outcomes. We need an urgent rethinking of how we gather evidence and inform policy that meets the needs of a changing Ireland.

While there has been an assumption that older people close to, and in receipt of, the State pension are generally mortgage-free home owners, it is clear that this is no longer true with many still carrying large mortgages, in mortgage arrears or living in precarious private rentals with no security of tenure in older age. We should all have a choice to age in place which means the creation of age friendly environments, including the provision of support services locally, which enable people to remain in their own homes and in communities for longer; but the changing nature of homeownership, rising cost of living, and the lack of a coordinated policy response to the housing crisis means many people will be facing a very difficult situation in later life. 

Many older people live in the most vulnerable situations in our society. An increasing number are struggling to meet the rising cost of living – in particular costs around rent and mortgages - in the context of a State pension that sees many surviving on incomes only just above the poverty line. Latest CSO EU SILC figures show 1 in 10 older people at risk of poverty. New taxes, and rising prices in recent years have a greater impact on older people generally living on a fixed income with limited opportunities to improve their situation. Budget 2020 saw the income of older person headed households increase by €1.08 per week for those living with another person, and by €6.08 per week for those living alone in older age. It did not offer the majority of older people the support needed to meet the increasing costs of living and it did not offer a concrete plan to support us to age in place.

Ageist attitudes towards working later in life still exist, for example many older people have reported high levels of discrimination during recruitment. Discriminatory mandatory retirement clauses are still in place forcing people out of the workforce earlier than they may wish. These two things undermine people’s ability to continue working in later life whether by choice or necessity. In the context of a buoyant labour market, we urgently need a fundamental shift in how we view and support older workers.

An increasing number of older people are experiencing fear about retirement due to worries about income adequacy. Less than half of those working have a private or occupational pension to support them in later life. While Age Action welcomes the publication of the recent autoenrolment scheme by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection which will see increased pension coverage for more than an estimated half a million workers, the current design will further drive existing pension inequalities unless there is a targeted intervention to include people in low paid jobs, particularly women and long term unemployed.

Our economy has been built on the backs of those already in, and approaching, older age: these are the same women and men who lived through the Marriage Bar, shouldered several recessions and are now dealing with the accumulated disadvantages. Successive government policies have failed to adequately plan and provide for an ageing population which will ultimately impact on all of us throughout our lives.