THE number of pensioners at risk of poverty has more than halved in the past six years but fears are growing those gains will be squandered in the next budget.
A report, which will be launched today by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development (CARDI), will show how the rate of older people at risk of poverty in the Republic of Ireland has fallen to just over 11% this year. This compares with a figure of 24.7% in 2004.
The report concludes, however, that many pensioners remain extremely vulnerable to any changes in income.
The study — Inequalities in Old Age: the impact of the recession on older people in Ireland North and South — was led by Professor Paddy Hillyard, Emeritus Professor Queen’s University Belfast in partnership with Dr Maureen Lyons, University College Dublin.
Professor Hillyard said many pensioners have significant concerns about the cuts in incomes and services that may lie ahead.
“Many who had looked forward to a comfortable old age are now fearful of facing financial hardship.
“While substantial moves have been made in reducing pensioner poverty in the Republic of Ireland in recent years, this study underlines the need to safeguard this progress and ensure that those most at risk are protected in any proposed cuts,” he said.
The report also revealed significant disparities in income and pensions among the older population across Ireland, north and south. More pensioners in Northern Ireland are found to be at significant risk of poverty compared to their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland and Britain.
Professor Davis Coakley of Trinity College Dublin, co-chair of CARDI, said the study illustrated the major and complex challenge of tackling inequalities in old age during a time of economic recession.
The release of the study comes in the wake of concerns expressed by Health Minister Mary Harney about the level of suicides by elderly people.
Ms Harney has said there is a “strong link” between the economic climate and the sharp rise in people taking their own lives.
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