Pensioners ‘having to choose heat or medicine’

Older people have been frustrated by suggestions that their demographic has been insulated from the effects of austerity, according to Age Action which is calling on the Government to increase the State pension for the first time since 2009.

The call comes as part of the organisation’s pre-Budget 2016 submission to TDs.

“Since 2009 an older person depending on the state pension and the household benefits package has seen their income cut by more than €13 a week,” Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action said.

“They’re struggling to pay new taxes along with rising fuel and health costs. Pensioners in this country should not be forced to choose between paying for medicine and keeping the heat on.”

The organisation for older people met its members in Cork, Dublin, Galway, and Monaghan over the summer, and identified its five priorities for the budget.

Its submission reveals that, in the upcoming budget, Age Action is seeking a €5 rise in the state pension, a €2.40 rise in the living alone allowance, an extra €26m for home help services, and an additional €7m for 550 home care packages.

The organisation is also seeking the restoration of the telephone allowance over the next two budgets.

“Older people spent a lifetime building this country. They shouldered their share of the burden of austerity,” Mr Moran said.

“As the economy returns to growth, they have a legitimate expectation that the sacrifices they made will be acknowledged.

“After years of cuts to income supports for older people, next month’s budget is an opportunity to restore value to a stagnant state pension and to reverse cuts to vital income supports like the telephone allowance.”

Model agency boss Celia Holman Lee and Susan O’Dwyer, Boots Ireland,launch the Boots winter flu vaccination in association with the Asthma Society of Ireland and Age Action. Picture: Robbie Reynolds
Model agency boss Celia Holman Lee and Susan O’Dwyer, Boots Ireland,launch the Boots winter flu vaccination in association with the Asthma Society of Ireland and Age Action. Picture: Robbie Reynolds

Age Action also said there is a need for investment in supports to enable older people to remain longer in their homes.

The organisation said that there has been a substantial reduction in home help hours since 2009, despite the number of people aged 85 and over increasing by 11% in the last three years.

“In recent years there has been a 44% increase in the number of older people in nursing homes categorised as ‘low dependency’ by the HSE’,” Mr Moran said.

“More home and community supports would enable many of these people to stay at home longer.

“That’s a better outcome for older people, it’s in line with government policy and it would help to reduce the cost of the nursing home support scheme.”


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