ALONE has welcomed the increase to the state pension, announced as part of Budget 2017, but stated that the government needs to do more to support older people in the community.
Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, commented “While we welcome the €5 increase to the pension, we have been campaigning for an indexing of the pension to ensure that its value is safeguarded for older people. This would end the yearly calls for pension increases and give older people fair financial independence.”
ALONE’s pre-budget submission called for an increase in home help hours in line with demand to ensure that older people are supported to age in the community.
Moynihan commented, “An additional €10m in new development funding for homecare has been announced. However, this still does not bring us back to the levels of funding in 2008. The number of home help hours has been cut by 1.28 million since 2010 and, in that time, the number of older people in the state has increased by 18%. Even if the funding for older peoples services is returned to 2008 levels, services will still be underfunded because of this demographic change.”
“What is of value to older people is community supports and services such as housing, home care and adequate transport options. An extra fiver in their pockets is of little value if you need services. With homecare packages falling short of need, many older people are topping up publicly provided homecare with private homecare.”
He continued, “There has been cross party support for ageing in the community but we need investment in services on a much larger scale than this Budget is offering. With our ageing demographic, supporting older people to age at home must be a priority for every government.”
In response to the €5 reduction in the maximum fee that over-70’s pay for medicine, Moynihan commented, “This reduction is a move in the right direction as the introduction of the €2.50 prescription charge over the last number of years has had serious health implications for older people. ALONE has witnessed the struggle of older people who have had to prioritise certain medicines as they cannot afford their entire prescription.”
Moynihan concluded “We need to keep planning and looking long term every year, as Ireland’s older population is set to reach 1.4m over the next 30 years. ALONE believes that it is vitally important to restore services and supports in the community as these are of equal value, if not more valuable, to older people than an increase in the state pension.”