‘Disturbing’ disregard for cuts’ effect on elderly

The Government’s apparent disregard for the hardship caused to older people by austerity measures is "disturbing", Age Action said yesterday.

‘Disturbing’ disregard for cuts’ effect  on elderly

The older peoples’ charity described last year as the busiest in its 21-year history, with support given to thousands of older people.

“As we marked our ‘coming of age’ anniversary, it was clear there has never been a greater need for the work being done by our staff, volunteers and members across Ireland,” said Age Action chief executive Robin Webster.

“It was a very difficult year, especially for the majority of older people who are dependent on the State pension and other statutory benefits.”

Mr Webster described the Government’s apparent disregard for the extra difficulties facing the poorest and sickest of all ages when making reductions in public expenditure as “disturbing”.

Tomorrow, Age Action will launch a campaign against any plans by the Government to cut back on free travel.

The Government is reviewing the free travel scheme for older people and people with disabilities.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Protection said the review would be finalised shortly.

The review will be presented to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar for their consideration. The charity said the scheme was playing a major role in helping older people to remain independent and want it to remain unchanged. The scheme entitles people over the age of 66 to use public transport free of charge.

With cuts already made in telephone and fuel allowance, funeral grants, and medical cards, there are fears that the travel scheme is next on the Government’s hit list.

The €77m free travel scheme provides free passes to more than 700,000 people to use Bus Éireann, Irish Rail, Luas, and many private transport services.

Age Action’s annual report for 2013 shows that almost 300,000 people used its services, read their publications, visited their website or charity shops, or helped with fundraising.

More than 22,000 older people used Age Action’s Care and Repair home visitation and DIY service.

Almost 4,000 older people were taught to use a computer and more than 2,000 used the charity’s information service.

Mr Webster said they needed to focus on public fundraising so that they could continue with and expand their work with older people. Like a lot of charities, it has suffered in the wake of Rehab and Central Remedial Clinic controversies. Age Action welcomed the establishment of the Charities Regulatory Authority

Mr Webster said the charity intended achieving the highest standards of best practice in corporate governance so that everyone involved in the charity would know that it was spending money wisely and well.

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