Budget 2013 Social Protection: Elderly hit with cuts to power and phone supports

Savings in services and schemes for the elderly announced in the budget will see cuts to medical as well as household package supports.

Elderly people with certain incomes will also have their supplemented access to medical treatment limited while amounts given to pensioners for electricity will be reduced.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she hoped that reductions in service funding for the elderly would be offset by suppliers offering better value deals.

The supplemented payments form part of a household package for citizens. This is made up of an electricity allowance, telephone allowance and a free TV licence scheme.

The Government yesterday announced it would reduce the supports available to the telephone allowance scheme, to achieve savings of €61m next year. Changes to the electricity allowance will also achieve savings of €20m in 2013.

Changes will see amounts in gas and electricity reduced from a top payment of €41 to €35 per month and from €22.60 to €9.50 for the telephone payment.

For electricity, the new rate will be applied as 150 units per month. Ms Burton said she hoped that the cheapest suppliers could be found to supply the services to customers and that they would supply the same amount in electricity or gas but for the cheaper price under the schemes.

Ms Burton, however, pointed out that no cuts were being made to the fuel allowance, free travel scheme as well as a living allowance for citizens.

Elsewhere, the Government announced it needed to make savings for medical card payments. It announced that people over 70 with an income of €600 to €700 per week for a single person (€1,200 to €1,400 per week for a couple) will have their medical card replaced with a GP-only card.

The change is expected to see 20,000 pensioners lose their full medical card and receive a GP visit card instead.

Health Minister James Reilly said that only 5% of elderly patients would have their full medical cards taken off them under the changes.

However, members of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament condemned the cuts.

“The loss of the medical card for older people in need of care and wishing to stay in their own homes is a loss of more than money.”

The card allowed the elderly access domiciliary care services which are not available without the card, said the group.

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