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Did Budget 2020 Take Steps Towards a Fairer Society for an Ageing Population?

Published 09/10/2019

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The Government's Budget 2020 choices did not include measures to address the inequalities faced by older people living in Ireland who are family members and contributors to our communities. Budget 2020 did not offer the majority of older people the support they need to meet the rising cost of living that is anticipated by the impacts of Brexit and it did not offer a concrete plan to support us to age in place.

 

Equality for older people requires the re-distribution of resources; power and influence; status and standing; and respect.  While the Government has increased some secondary benefits with the view to targeting people in the most vulnerable situations, which is a sensible approach, it has to be acknowledged that if people had adequate income to meet the true cost of ageing, they would be able to have choice over how to spend their money to best meet their specific needs.

The net affect of Budget 2020 on the income of older person headed households is;

  • Those under 80 and living with another person are €1.08 better off per week following Budget 2020 and have seen a weekly increase of €11.68 since 2009

 

  • For those under 80 and living alone, they are €6.08 better off per week following Budget 2020, and have seen a weekly increase of €20.48 on 2009 income

 

  • For those over 80 and living with another person, their weekly income has risen by €1.08 in Budget 2020, and €11.68 since 2009

 

  • For those over 80 and living alone, they are better off by €6.08 per week following Budget 2020, and €20.48 since 2009.

 

Some people who are over 80 are people in the most vulnerable situations in our society with no capacity to increase their income while dealing with the increasing cost of ageing. A person over 80, not living alone, received €1.08 per week to cope with Brexit, the carbon tax increase and the rising cost of living in 2020. It is on the backs of these people that our economy has been built: these are the same women and men who lived through the Marriage Bar, shouldered several recessions and are now dealing with the accumulated disadvantages. In working for equality, it is critical that we focus on equality of outcomes not just equality of opportunity.

Did Budget 2020 Create a Fairer Pension System?

Budget 2020 eroded the gains that the previous 4 budgets gave to older people because there was no increase in the State pension; it didn’t allow for any increase in the cost of living and ability to withstand economic shocks.

The 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. That increase was eminently achievable – at no extra cost to the State - by reducing the tax relief on private pensions to 33%, as proposed by the National Pensions Framework. Reducing these tax breaks would not only provide the funds for significant increases for all pensioners, it would also help to reduce the massive income inequality that exists amongst older people

Did Budget 2020 Address the Cost of Ageing?

We are pleased to see an increase in the Living Alone Allowance and the increase in the Fuel Allowance. A person receiving both of these is €6.08 better off than they were last year per week.

Age Action encourages the Government to take ambitious climate action to ensure the people and planet are protected from the impacts of climate change. However, the introduction of the Carbon Tax, in the absence of current research on fuel poverty, risks pushing the burden of climate action on people who are in the most vulnerable situations, which is contrary to the principle of climate justice and the stated aim of the Government. Age Action notes that 75% of pensioners will not benefit from the increase in the Fuel Allowance.  In terms of the Living Alone Allowance, which is another targeted social welfare measure by the Government, Age Action notes that 75% of pensioners will not benefit from the increase. These people will not see an increase in their income under Budget 2020 despite the expected continued increase in the cost of living; essentially this translates to a reduction in money in people’s pockets.

Did Budget 2020 take steps to Enable Older People to Age in Place?

The allocation for home supports – while welcome – does not meet the current waiting list of some 7,000 people and is inadequate. We are pleased to see the increase in medical card threshold for over 70s and reduced prescription charges which will go some way to reduce the out of pocket costs for older people but ultimately this does not remove the structural barriers to accessing affordable and adequate health care.

 

Related Reading

Age Action has produced an analysis of Budget 2020 against our priorities in our Pre-Budget Submission,Towards a Fairer Society for an Ageing Population, and an analysis of the social welfare benefits available to older people between Budget 2009 and Budget 2020 both of which are available below.

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Pension Inequality Firmly on the Election 2020 Campaign Agenda

Age Action joined the SIPTU led coalition of non-governmental organisations for the launch of the STOP67 campaign in Dublin today (Thursday, 23rd January) which aims to halt the increase of the state pension age for workers to 67 from next year in order to address inequalities in the pension system.

Speaking at the formal campaign launch in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Kildare Street, Dublin, SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley, said: “STOP67 is the SIPTU campaign to stop the increase of the state pension age to 67 on 1st January, 2021.

“SIPTU representatives are not surprised this is a major general election issue. We have been hearing from our members since the abolition of the transitional pension scheme in 2014 about the difficulties that the retirement gap has been causing for workers. This includes the absolute indignity of people coming up to 65 years of age who are expecting to get their pension and having to sign on the dole.”

National Women’s Council of Ireland Director, Orla O’Connor, said: “This is a core issue for women. Women rely on the state pension for the vast majority of their income in older age. So, anything that impacts on state pensions disproportionally impacts on women.”

Age Action Chief Executive, Paddy Connolly, said: “This campaign is not only about stopping the rise of the pension age to 67 but also the creation of a stakeholder forum which will consider issues such as finances, age discrimination and others that effect people in their retirement.”

Active Retirement Ireland chief executive, Maureen Kavanagh, said: “Ireland has the youngest population but the highest prospective retirement age in the EU. We are not under the demographic pressure of other countries. Retirement is a great part of life but it has to be voluntary, flexible and appropriate. We can’t force people out of a job that they love, or to stay in their job.”

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, called on Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to make clear their position on the pensions issue.

He added: “All the other political parties are supporting the ‘STOP67’ campaign. The big two parties must make their position clear.”