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AGE ACTION CRITICISES GOVERNMENT FOR BEING CONTENT TO KEEP OLDER PEOPLE HOVERING ON POVERTY LINE

Published 08/10/2019

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AGE ACTION CRITICISES GOVERNMENT FOR BEING CONTENT TO KEEP OLDER PEOPLE HOVERING ON POVERTY LINE

Failure to increase pensions contradicts Government’s commitments under National Pensions Framework

Reducing tax breaks for private pensions could have allowed Government to tackle significant income inequality among older people

Age Action CEO, Paddy Connolly, says that older people will be disappointed but probably not surprised by the Government’s failure to increase the Old Age Pension for 2020. Mr Connolly said that the tone of the Government’s message to older people in the lead up to the Budget has been that they shouldn’t expect much by way of income improvements. However, Paddy Connolly welcomed the Budget measures to tackle income inequalities in childhood which he said would help protect against the accumulation of disadvantage later in life for future generations of older people.

“The Government’s own National Pensions Framework committed it to benchmarking the State Pension at 35% of average weekly earnings. In order to move the current pension payment towards the delivery of that target, Age Action called on the Government to increase the weekly pension payment by €9.

“What’s most disappointing is that this increase was eminently achievable – at no extra cost to the State – by reducing the tax breaks on private pensions to 33%, as proposed by the National Pensions Framework. Reducing these tax breaks would not alone provide the funds for significant increases for all pensioners, it would also help to reduce the massive income inequality that exists amongst older people,” Paddy Connolly said.

Mr Connolly welcomed the increase in the Living Alone Allowance, rise in the Medical Card income thresholds for over 70s as well as increases in some secondary benefits but questioned whether older people would see any real net benefit in their pockets particularly because of rising fuel prices. He also challenged the Government to commission research on the cost of ageing to establish the true costs of growing old in Ireland.

Paddy Connolly welcomed the commitment to increase spending on home support provision and called on the Government to expedite home care legislation.

“The vast majority of older people wish to spend their later years in their own home, close to family and community, and not to be forced into nursing homes due to a shortage of home care packages. In this context, we welcome the Government’s commitment to provide an additional one million hours for home care. However, it’s vital that the promise of home care legislation by 2021 is delivered upon,” Age Action’s Paddy Connolly concluded.

ENDS

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Age Action is calling for a Digital Allowance to support the Digital Inclusion of Older People and a Study on the Cost of Ageing in Budget 2021

(30 July 2020) 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation on ageing and older people is calling for Budget 2021 to include a digital allowance in the form of a €2.50 increase to the Telephone Support Allowance and a broadening of the eligibility criteria to support older people to access digital technology.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Digital exclusion is a reality for at least 33% of people over the age of 65 with the associated cost being one of the barriers to access for older people. We know that communication costs have increased during COVID-19 as people became more reliant on digital communications as a means of communicating with family, health professionals, arranging essential services and addressing social isolation.  In the context of an increasing reliance on telehealth measures and public health advice, Age Action urges the Government to increase the Telephone Support Allowance, introduced in June 2018 at a weekly rate of €2.50, to €5 and for a broadening of the eligibility criteria which is narrowly confined to those getting the Living Alone Allowance who are also eligible for the Fuel Allowance.’

Government services now actively prefer transactions to be digital under a “Digital First”approach, encouraging people to carry out their tax returns, and apply to r enew their driving licences and passports online. The Public Service ICT Strategy prioritises the digitisation of ‘the main existing citizen and business transactional services across Public Services’. There is an increasing reliance on digital channels to provide information by both the public and private sector which undermines people’s ability to access information which was very evident during the height of the pandemic. In a recent CSO survey of households of those over 60 and not online, the second greatest challenge to people who said they needed access to broadband, after lack of digital skills, was the perceived prohibitive cost.

‘Older people are being left behind because they do not have adequate access or skills to engage with digital services or participate in the digital economy; providing a digital allowance as well as investing in one-to-one digital literacy training that meets the needs of older people, is critical to bridging the digital divide. The new National Digital Skills Strategy committed to under the Programme for Government will have budgetary implications; Budget 2021 should begin to support older people to keep up’ Connolly said.