‘Older people will be left struggling’

More older people will be left struggling to pay for heat and healthcare because of Wednesday’s budget, Age Action has warned.

Group spokesman Eamon Timmins said: “Older people are already telling us they are going to bed in the middle of the day or sitting on buses or shopping centres in order to remain warm because they cannot afford to heat their homes.”

The value of electricity units provided under the household benefits package has been reduced by €20m and follows in the wake of cuts to the number of units last year.

The introduction of a carbon tax on solid fuel would also hit those struggling to heat their homes, taking in €22m in a full year.

Age Action is concerned about the property tax and believes the income threshold of €15,000 per annum, or €288 a week, for a single pensioner is too low. “Many older people may fail to qualify for the deferral but will struggle to pay for this tax,” said Mr Timmins.

The charity is also angry that the trebling of the prescription charge from 50c to €1.50 per item on a prescription would hit the poorest and the sickest of older people the hardest.

The Older and Bolder group said it was alarmed by the changes to medical card eligibility criteria.

Director Patricia Conboy said older people on incomes just above the new threshold, particularly those living alone, would be hit hardest by the loss of the medical card.

She said the GP visit card, which will replace the medical card for 20,000 pensioners, would only entitle them to a free visit to the doctor.

“Unlike the medical card, the GP card does not offer the same access to a range of vital supports including public health nursing, social work services, community care services, and certain in-patient public hospital services. In addition, any prescribed drugs associated with your GP visit are not free,” she said.

“The security that the medical card provides, especially for older people with ill health, cannot be underestimated.”

She described the prop-erty tax as “an unforgiving tax” for older people. “This proposal risks turning a hard-won asset, house ownership, into a liability.”

Older and Bolder welcomed the retention of the state pension at current levels but said it believed reductions to telephone and electricity allowances would cause concern.

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