(12 October 2021) Reacting to Budget 2022, Age Action welcomes the Government’s recognition that older people have been left behind for three years while the cost of living has gone up, but €5 on the State Pension will replace less than half of the €10.24 that the State Pension has lost in purchasing power since January 2019. The increase of €3 in the Living Alone allowance is welcome as it will assist the 4 in 10 older people who live alone.
It should be remembered that older people living in sheltered housing, social housing or nursing homes will all pay increased rent or fees, which will reduce the net value of the €5 or €8 that they receive.
‘People need income adequacy and security in older age but currently the State Pension provides neither for those who depend on it. Age Action wants to see an indexed State Pension, like in the UK and across Europe, that goes up automatically when the cost of living goes up. The Pensions Commission has also recommended this. That would take the politics out of the State Pension rate so that we all have more certainty about our core income in older age,’ said Nat O’Connor, Senior Public Affairs and Policy Specialist, Age Action.
‘Age Action has a serious concern that energy costs will continue to rise next year that will push up prices for many goods and services, not just home heating and transport. Older people need an evidence-based budget process that protects them from these risks, not yearly uncertainty about whether the Government will give them any help with costs that are already mounting up,’ O’Connor continued.
The increase of €5 in the Fuel Allowance is welcome, especially as slightly more people will be eligible for the payment. However, only 3 in 10 older people benefited from the Fuel Allowance before the Budget, and a majority of older people will still not be eligible for this support despite the sharp increase in energy costs in recent months. Age Action also welcomes the ring-fencing of Carbon Tax revenue towards home insulation schemes as well as Fuel Allowance, as many older people cannot afford to retrofit their homes to make them warmer. However, higher taxes on more polluting cars will affect older people who cannot afford to replace their existing car, which is essential for those living in rural areas or for the many older people who are carers.
Measures to increase access to carers’ income supports through higher income disregards are an important measure in the budget, and this will assist people – younger and older – whose work is the care of a loved one.
Age Action welcomes the additional €3 million towards lifelong learning, especially literacy and digital literacy. This is greatly needed, as two-thirds (65%) of older people remain digitally excluded as they are either not using the internet or else have “below basic” skills to be confident and safe transacting when with public services, Revenue or banks online.
‘Lack of digital skills is only one barrier that people who are digitally excluded face. Cost is a significant barrier for people who rely on the State Pension so we are disappointed to see that Budget 2022 provided no financial support for those who cannot afford a digital device or the cost of broadband,’ said O’Connor.