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Pension Inequality Firmly on the Election 2020 Campaign Agenda

Published 23/01/2020

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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.”

Support STOP67 Pension Age Increase Campaign

Policy Development

There has been a disjointed and poor approach to pension and retirement planning since 2014. Age Action believes that the next Government needs to review the whole area of pension policy which is why it is a key priority area in our Election 2020 manifesto, in partnership with Active Reitrement Ireland.  The STOP67 coalition is calling for a stakeholder forum to be established by the next Government to ensure that there is meaningful consultation with people who are going to be affected.

Successive policy changes in the area of pensions and retirement have been introduced across the lifetime of the last Government without adequate consultation and planning which has resulted in gaps and yet more anomalies between policies, often from within the same  Government department. Examples of such anomilies include;

  • People forced to retire before 66 have to claim unemployment payments through Jobseekers Benefit, even though they have worked and paid taxes all their lives. Being forced on to unemployment payments at the age of 65, rather than receive a (transition) pension, which was abolised in 2014 when the pension age rose from 65 to 66, means a loss of nearly €2,400* a year (and up to €7,000 for a couple). This is a massive cut in living standards.   
  • The Total Contribution Approach 2012 (TCA2012) was brought in to remedy the unintended and disproportionate impact of changes to the pension calculation rate bands in September 2012, especially on women. Payments were made back to 31 March 2018, still today leaving a gap of 5 years and 6 months in the take home pension of those effected by this.
  • The TCA2012 introduced 20 years of Home Caring credits and 10 years of credits for 'other' reasons such as unemployment etc. Together, there is a maximum cap of 20 years of credits. This has created the unnecessary division between those not in work for caring purposes and those on unemployment, studying or working abroad. The total 20 year cap on all credits also penalises those who were unable to get back into the workplace and who retrained or were unemployed etc. after 20 years at home with their families.

Putting Older People on the Agenda of Election 2020

Paddy Connolly said "It has taken a General Election for the voices of people to be heard on issues concerning us as we get older. It is good to see hopeful TDs listen to and respond to the needs of people. Policy development and implementation has to enable the participation of people in a meaningful way. What we are seeing through the pension focus is that mistakes were made. Mistakes cost money and votes. A Senior Minister for Older People, research on the cost of ageing to enable evidenced based policy and a Commissioner for Ageing would go some way to make sure the same mistakes are not made in the next Government."

Related Reading

To show your support for Stop 67 you can sign the petition or contact your candidate through www.pensionage.ie

To read more about Age Action and Active Retirement's Election 2020 campaign click here 

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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.