‘Protect children and elderly from IMF’

Groups representing children and the elderly have hit out strongly at IMF recommendations targeting social welfare benefits, medical cards and children’s allowance.

The head of the IMF’s mission to Ireland Craig Beaumont said the measures were costing the country too much and said only the relatively less well off families should be entitled to child benefit. He also called for greater restrictions to be placed on the number of people entitled to medical cards.

Mr Beaumont’s comments echo those of the European Commission which suggested the Government should means test elderly people before giving them the services to which the over-70s are entitled.

Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins yesterday hit out at the recommendations and warned that, if the Government were to adopt some of the proposed cuts suggested, they would seriously undermine key supports which many older people need in order to live with dignity and would be “vigorously opposed”.

“When they talk of non-means tested pensions are they referring to the contributory state pension which pensioners receive having paid PRSI stamps all their working life, or are they referring to the pensions paid to retiring TDs and judges?

“The IMF and the Government must remember that the State pension is the main source of income for the majority of pensioners,” he said.

Mr Timmins said it was also unclear why the IMF is suggesting means testing of pensioners for the over-70s medical card, when means testing was introduced in 2008, and questioned if the IMF was suggesting the Government review the income limits which were set following major protests in 2008.

CEO of Active Retirement Ireland Maureen Kavanagh also stressed that future budgetary measures must not impact negatively on older people’s quality of life or prevent them from living at home and ageing healthily within their own communities.

“When the Dáil resumes in the autumn, there will be a huge focus on the pending budget.

“We would like to hear a commitment from all TDs before then that they will safeguard the interests of older people in preparing any budget proposals.

“A combination of increased taxation and reduced income supports means many older people are now struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

Packie Kelly of the Family Resource Centre National Forum warned the Government against introducing a means test for child benefit and has suggested the introduction of a tax on the benefit as an alternative.

“The introduction of a means test would be a very blunt instrument. It would create new poverty traps and act as a potential barrier to employment for some groups,” he said.

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