(Wednesday 14 July) As the Pre-Budget Forum is hosted by the Department of Social Protection on Wednesday 14 July, Age Action is calling for the Government to protect older people from falling into poverty with an increase in the State Pension of €15 per week and a comprehensive study on the cost of ageing to inform future policy.
Age Action’s Head of Advocacy and Communications, Celine Clarke, called on the Government to recognise that the level of the State Pension has fallen further behind the benchmark level of 34% of average earnings, and both poverty and deprivation are higher in the latest figures than they were in 2017. As of the beginning of 2021, the full contributory State Pension of €248.30 is only 28.9% of average earnings, a full €43.84 below the target level. Age Action has called for a €15 increase in the State Pension in Budget 2022, as part of a three-year plan to raise the pension to 34% of average earnings. All linked and supplementary payments also need to rise in line with this core payment.
Describing Age Action’s proposals, Celine Clarke said that “Older people have borne the brunt of COVID-19. Not only in terms of the awful effects of the pandemic itself, but also in how lockdown has increased the cost of living for many while also undermining their independence and autonomy. Two successive Budgets have not put money in the pockets of older people to enable them to withstand economic shocks which means that in 2021, one in ten older people are at risk of poverty.”
“In Budget 2022, Age Action is calling for the Government to conduct a comprehensive review of the costs associated with ageing so there is an understanding of the real cost of living for all older people. On an evidence-based approach, Age Action is calling for the State Pension to be increased on the basis of a ‘triple lock’, where the pension will rise automatically every year based on whichever is highest: 2.5 per cent; increases in the cost of living; or increases in average earnings. This is necessary to prevent poverty in older age and to ensure that older people’s incomes do not fall further and further behind the rest of society, which is unfortunately what we have seen in the last four years.”
Clarke continued: “Out of around 713,000 beneficiaries of the State Pension, only a minority (around 131,000) receive Fuel Allowance. Age Action is calling for an expansion of eligibility criteria and increases in the rate of the Fuel Allowance to compensate for the effect of Carbon Taxes as a measure of climate justice. We want to see targeted social protection supports to prevent material deprivation, which still affects one in nine older people. Around 90,000 people cannot afford to put a protein-rich meal on the table every second day, over 30,000 can’t afford a warm coat and a similar number struggle with the cost of home heating. Better targeting of social protection could eliminate basic deprivation to ensure that everyone enjoys the basic right to an adequate income in older age.”
Reflecting on the impact of digital exclusion experienced by many people Clarke said “Budget 2022 should change the old Telephone Allowance into a new and expanded Communications Allowance to help cover the cost of access to the internet for people on low fixed incomes. Digital exclusion is a reality for almost 50% of people aged over 65 years old and we know that affordability is a key barrier for them getting online to access public services or manage their financial affairs.”