“Missed opportunity for structural change to pensions and supports for older people” say older person’s charity
Dublin, 27th September: Budget 2023 has not delivered for older people on lowest incomes into 2023, says ALONE, the organisation that enables older people to age at home.
Budget 2023, which was released today, included announcements of a €12 increase in the State Pension, an expansion of criteria for the Fuel Allowance, one-off payments for those on the Fuel Allowance and Living Alone Allowance, and electricity credits for all households. At a time of unprecedented levels of employment and income tax revenue, ALONE is disappointed the Government has not honoured its commitment to benchmark the pension.
“While the measures announced today are welcomed, they do not go far enough,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “A €12 increase in the pension is simply not enough to keep up with the increased costs caused by inflation – it doesn’t even enable people to stand still. While one-off supports are welcome, they do not make up the difference in what was needed in core welfare increases.”
“We work with older people who are turning off their fridges and pendant alarms, who are selling off items to support themselves, who are spending their days in shopping centres and on trains to avoid the cost of having to heat their homes. An extra €12 per week will not reassure those people in January. We needed increases to the pension and other supports at the level of €20 and above in order to provide any sort of financial stability for older people,” he continued.
Nonetheless, the organisation welcomed the significant expansion of eligibility for the Fuel Allowance, for which the income threshold has increased, enabling many more older people to be eligible for the support.
“This will be a huge benefit to older people who have been living below minimum standards of living but remained ineligible for this support. Our concern however remains that the Fuel Allowance itself has not been increased, nor has the Fuel Allowance season been increased from 28 weeks,” said Moynihan.
The one-off payments of €400 for those in receipt of the Fuel Allowance amount to a per week increase of €14, the organisation noted – significantly less than the additional €20 per week and increase from 28-week to 35-week Fuel Allowance season the organisation called for. Similarly, the one-off payment of €200 for those in receipt of the Living Alone allowance amounts to a weekly increase of less than €4 – again, a significant shortfall in comparison to the €20 increase called for by ALONE.
The organisation noted that if benchmarking of the pension had been introduced as committed to, older people would not be struggling so significantly today with the increases in the cost of living. “The Roadmap for Social Inclusion committed to introduce benchmarking of the pension by Budget 2021. We are disappointed that we are now at Budget 2023, and we still have not seen any progress towards this, at a time when it is needed most.”
The organisation has encouraged older people to make use of other supports such as Additional Needs Payments and the vulnerable customers’ registers held by electricity companies to help them throughout the winter.
“There has been a significant increase in requests for support through the Additional Needs Payments and other supports in recent months,” said Moynihan. “We want to say to people that although the increases in payments may not be all that we had hoped and campaigned for, further supports are available for those who are struggling. More than 100,000 older people are at risk of or living in consistent poverty. We do not want any older person to struggle this winter and we encourage them to contact us for support. It will be a difficult winter for older people.”
ALONE’S National Support & Referral Line is 0818 222 024.