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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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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.