‘Budget 2022 must lift older people out of poverty’, says ALONE

 ALONE, the organisation that supports older people to age safely and securely at home, has put forward a series of asks in their pre-budget submission to the Department of Social Protection in advance of this year’s Budget, highlighting income gaps faced by older people and calling for a number of factors to be considered by the Department in order to protect Ireland’s growing ageing population.

Financial matters are one of the biggest concerns raised by the older people ALONE work with, with 76% of older people with living alone. Latest research shows that an income of €286.48 is needed to avoid poverty in 2021[1]. The current Contributory State Pension is €248.30 and the Non-Contributory State Pension is €237; an older person on the Contributory State Pension is €38.18 below the poverty line.

ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan, stated, “The income gap between the State Pension and the amount needed to live above the poverty line is concerning, particularly as our older population is expected to grow from 640,000 to 1.1 million by the year 2030[2]. Pensions are somehow still falling below the poverty line, despite the fact that as a country we can afford to pay pensions to ensure an adequate standard of living; this is something that must be accounted for in the next Budget to protect older people from living in poverty.”

ALONE are calling for the State Pension to be increase by €10.50 in Budget 2022 and over the next years. The organisation has recommended that the pension be triple-locked at 35% of average weekly earnings, 2.5% annually, or the rate of inflation, whichever is greater. This will help to ensure that older people can receive an adequate income, secure pensions at a deliverable rate and protect pensions when average earnings drop.

ALONE is also calling for the Department of Social Protection to update the existing Telephone Support Allowance to an integrated Telephone and Technology Support Allowance, in order to help support older people to access digital technology. The current Allowance should be increased by €5 to €7.50 to assist with costs associated with technology, such as broadband and additional or replacement equipment.

The organisation has also called for the introduction of an Older Person Technology Grant of €250 to help support older people to buy technology such as e-Health devices, voice enabled devices, emergency response alarms, tablets or smart phone devices and smart home sensors. These devices can help to further original purpose of the Telephone Allowance to “help prevent social isolation among vulnerable members of society”[3].

Moynihan stated, “We have seen key services, such as banks and social welfare either closed their offices or moved totally online and now operate from a ‘digital first’ approach. This has widened the digital divide and those without skills to use online services and technology are being left behind. Budget 2022 must reduce the digital divide.

“From ALONE’s work we have demonstrated the benefit of technology to older people to empower them to manage their own health and wellbeing, improve their safety and security and to maintain connections with family. In 2020 we carried out nearly 1,900 technology prescriptions, including pendant alarms, mobile phones, and technology support interventions and completed over 4 pilot projects to demonstrate the wide range of benefits technology has for older people.”

 

ALONE have put forward the following asks to the Department of Social Protection ahead of Budget 2022*:

  • Triple-locked the State Pension, implement benchmarking and increase by €10.50 and over the next five years
  • Set the Fuel Allowance season to 32-weeks and increase by €4 per week to minimize the impact of the Carbon Tax and energy supplier increases on households in fuel poverty. The Fuel Allowance eligibility criteria should also be reviewed
  • Introduce legislation to implement the Total Contributions Approach
    • Set the model at 30 years, as suggested in the 2010 National Pensions Framework
    • Increase Home Caring Credits to 25 years under the model
  • Reconfigure the Telephone Support Allowance to a Telephone and Technology Support Allowance to help support older people to access digital technology. This Allowance should also be increased by €5 to €7.50
  • An Older Person Technology Grant of €250 to help support older people to buy technology such as e-Health devices, voice enabled devices, emergency response alarms, tablets or smart phone devices and smart home sensors
  • Review the Exceptional Needs Payment to ensure it is operating effectively, especially in light of COVID-19
  • Increase the income threshold for all means-tested benefits in line with increases in the State Pension and secondary benefits
  • €3 million in annual funding towards a dedicated Carer’s Pension for long-term family carers as in the Programme for Government and was recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly in 2021
  • Introduce an Automatic Enrolment System

*This forms part of a wider Budget submission.

 

[1] Social Justice Ireland, 2021. Poverty Focus 2021. [online] Social Justice Ireland, p.2. Available at: 2021-04-22-povertyfocusapril2021final.pdf (socialjustice.ie)

[2] ESRI. 2017. Demand For Healthcare Projected To Increase Substantially With Rapid Growth And Ageing Of Population. [online] Available at: Demand for healthcare projected to increase substantially with rapid growth and ageing of population | ESRI

[3]Department of Social Protection, 2018. Minister Doherty introduces new Telephone Support Allowance. [online] Available at:https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/a10ed5-minister-doherty-introduces-new-telephone-support-allowance/

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