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Age Action response to Budget 2019

Published 09/10/2018

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For immediate release – Tuesday 9 October 2018

 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people, has cautiously welcomed the increase in the State Pension and other income supports for older people announced in today’s budget.

 

 

State Pension and other income supports

Anna McCabe, Interim CEO, said: “An increase in the State Pension was overwhelmingly the top priority for our members in Budget 2019.

“An increasing number of older people on a fixed income are finding it difficult to pay essential daily bills in the context of current taxes and rising prices. This makes today’s pension increase all the more vital and we are pleased the Government is delivering its promise to reverse the damage to older people’s incomes from previous austerity Budgets.”

However, the organisation expressed its disappointment at the decision to delay the pension increase to March 2019 and the failure to reverse the 2012 pension cuts.

Anna McCabe continued: “We had hoped to see progress on reversing the 2012 changes to the State Pension which continues to punish older people who do not have a full contribution record such as those who worked abroad and the self-employed before 1988.”

“It is disappointing that, for the third time, we’re seeing a delay in the pension increase, especially when it is perhaps most needed in January and February to help during the coldest months.”

“We welcome the restoration of the final 15 per cent of the Christmas Bonus and payment as a double week for Christmas 2018 for all social welfare recipients.”  

“A corresponding rise in the thresholds of means-tested benefits such as the fuel allowance and medical cards is needed to see these income increases make a real difference to the life of an older person.”

Homecare

Anna McCabe said: “We are disappointed not to see any concrete reference to home supports in Budget 2019. Homecare in Ireland is in crisis. A statutory home care scheme is urgently needed. Almost 6,500 people are waiting for funding for home supports.”

“Home help hours and home care packages are simply not available as needed in many parts of the country and provision of care varies greatly across the regions.”

“Inadequate home support resources mean more older people simply do not have the option of being cared for at home, more families struggling to cope without home helps and more pressure on carers.”

Prescription Charges and Costs

Anna McCabe continued: “We welcome the modest decrease of 50c per prescription charge for over 70 medical card holders but know that this charge will still continue to cause real hardship for older people surviving on the lowest incomes.”

Prescription charges increased by 500 per cent during the Recession. Older people are more likely to have multiple prescriptions and to suffer from a tax that targets the sick and the least well-off.

“The reduction announced today is good news and we hope it is a step towards abolishing what is an unnecessary and dangerous tax on a vulnerable group.”

The higher cut off in eligibility for the GP Visit Card will mean that some older people under 70 will become eligible for a free GP visit. The €10 reduction to €124 monthly cap for the Drugs Payment Scheme is a modest help for older people struggling with the cost of medicines.

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For more information contact Corona Joyce at advocacy@ageaction.ie or on 087 968 2449

Note to Editor:

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: €107 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]

 

 

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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.