The Annual meeting of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament was held on the 13th & 14th April 2007 . Three hundred delegates representing the Parliaments 90,000 members gathered to review the Annual Report of the years work on behalf of the Parliament and to develop new policies for the future.
The year had been marked by the participation of the Parliament in Social Partnership. For the first time Older Peoples representatives were admitted to membership of the Community and Voluntary Pillar and played an active part in negotiating the new programme ‘Towards 2016’ which contained a section dealing with Older Peoples issues including a commitment in the agreement to publish a ‘Green Paper’ on Pension Policy which is long overdue given the relatively poor position of pensioners in Ireland against their counterparts in other European Union.
On Friday night delegates attended a dinner and a social event with a live band.
President Peter Sands covered many topics in his address including the following:
Northern Ireland: He welcomed recent events in the peace process and expressed the wish that the ties between the Parliament and Older People’s groups in Northern Ireland would be strengthened. He placed on record his thanks to the Vice-President Paddy Donegan and the staff of the Parliament for all their work.
Our membership continues to grow and we now have 380 affiliated groups and 100,000 members. Income and health care continue to be core issues dealt with by the Parliament. From September 07 women who worked in the home will be paid their entitlements directly.
Social Partnership Agreement: He commended two sections in “Towards 2016” to delegates Section 32 on Older People as part of the Lifecycle Framework and Section 8.8 on the Green Paper on National Pensions Policy which will be published soon. The Parliament will be involved in the widespread consultation on the Paper and Michael O’Halloran CEO as a member of the Pensions Board will be a strong voice for our cause.
He welcomed the establishment of the Task Force on Active Citizenship of which our Hon. Secretary, Sylvia Meehan is a member.
Atlantic Philanthropies: An agreement covering a period of four years was signed in March with Atlantic Philanthropies. It covers an agreed work programme and a grant of €811,000. Through their Ageing programmes, Atlantic seeks to transform how ageing and older people are viewed by society and to bring about lasting improvements in the lives of older adults. The agreement provides for additional staff and resources to strengthen the Parliament at National, Local and Divisional level. It is a challenge as well as an opportunity.
In conclusion he said, never before was a “Strong Voice” for Older People more needed.
The Officers and Executive Committee elected to serve for the coming year are as follows:
President: Sylvia Meehan
Vice-President: Paddy Donegan
Hon-Secretary: Breda O’Malley
Treasurer: Nell Foley
Trustees: Charlie Hammond, Peter Sands
Executive Committee Members:
Peter Campbell, Jim Cousins, Liam Cradden, Breda Dunlea, Eddie Fitzgerald, Nell FitzPatrick, Anthony Gilligan, Barney Hartnett,Ignatius Martin, Evelyn Moran, Patrick Morgan, Anna O’Farrell, Ena O’Mahoney, Patrick Philpott, Sally Quinn
Sean Power T.D. Minister for Services for Older People at the Department of Health and Children spoke on the matters outlined below.
- Ageing Population: By 2036, the population is expected to reach 1.1 million people aged over 65. It will have wide ranging implications for pensions, health and long-term care. It is important that continuous liaison between Government and Older People’s groups organisations take place to ensure that the needs of older people are addressed.
- Government Policy: Continues to be that older people receive the attention or care they require in their own homes and communities for as long as is possible. In 2006 the cost for services for older people was 150m. For 2007 the cost is estimated at €255m.
- Community Based Supports: 2,000 extra home care packages will be provided in 2007. There will be 780,000 extra hours of home help and 1,100 extra day care places.
- Carers: He praised the importance of family carers in allowing older people to remain at home longer than would otherwise be possible. He referred to the increase in benefits for Carer’s in the last budget in line with Towards 2016 and the Programme for Government so that all those on average industrial incomes qualify. Effective June the Respite Care Grant is €1500.
- Long-Term Care: Draft national standards for all residential care settings for older people were published on the 25th January and the interim Health Information and Quality Authority have established a working group to oversee public consultation on the standards and to finalise them.
- A Fair Deal: It is planned to introduce a new nursing home care support scheme – A Fair Deal – at the start of January next year. It will provide uniform financial support for individuals in private and public nursing home beds. The Fair Deal will ensure that the State continues to fund the largest part of care costs overall. Contributions during a person’s life will be less than their disposable income and they will not have to sell or mortgage their house to meet the contribution. A person’s family will not have to contribute towards the cost of their care.For 2007 a new subvention scheme has been introduced. The maximum rate of a basic subvention has now been raised to €300 and €85 million allocate to it as a down-payment to ease current inequities.
- Attitudes to Old Age: Referring to the need for a more positive attitude to ageing amongst older people themselves and the population in general he praised the valuable contribution of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament over the years, in promoting the interests of older people.
WORKSHOPS ON “A FAIR DEAL”
Three Workshops were held on the “Fair Deal” proposal which will help to inform the Parliament examination of the matter. The facilitators from the Department of Health and Children, Services for Older People were Dr Fergal Lynch, Geraldine Fitzpatrick and Laura McGarrigle. Chairpersons were John Brady formerly of the Department of Health and Children, Bob Carroll, Director National Council on Ageing and Older People and Maurice O’Connell, Alzheimer’s Society.
JEAN MANAHAN, Programme Executive, Ageing (ROI), Atlantic Philanthropies
Speaking she said it was a real privilege to be to hear some of the motions being put before the annual Parliament meeting which touch on so many of the important issues which face all of us as we get older. The CEO had told her that to understand the Parliament she should see it in action and this was absolutely right. The great work goes on throughout the year, all around the country locally in your divisions as well as nationally. Her hope for the future is that your work will be enhanced by Atlantic’s grant and that local, regional and national networks and representation will be strengthened. The aim ultimately is to strengthen the voice of older people so that the so called ‘grey vote’ will be heard clearly, powerfully and unambiguously. You are not lobbying for are ‘handouts’ but basic rights based on respect and dignity for all citizens. If we do not treat all of our people well then the whole body politic suffers. As Dame Cicely Saunders famously said: ‘You matter because you are you and you matter all the days of your life.’ She expressed special appreciation to Michael O’Halloran for all his work in bringing our joint initiative to fruition. It has been like a dance, sometimes a very slow waltz, but hopefully now the tempo can speed up to a quick step.
The following is a summary of the outcome of the motions by subject matter.
CONSTITUTION of ISCP
Motion 1 Tenure of Office of the ISCP Board was passed
Motion 2 calling for the abolition of the mean test for the age allowance was passed
Motion 3 calling for the extension of the allowance to the Qualified Adult was passed
LIVING ALONE ALLOWANCE
Motions 4 & 5 seeking both an increase and the extension of the living alone allowance to those in receipt of pensions from other EU states was passed
Motion 6 seeking an increase was passed
Motion 7 seeking to have the Qualified Adult payment at the same level as the main recipient waspassed.
Motion 8 seeking to retain payment of State pension at 65/66 and the provision of incentives/options to those who deferred to a later stage was passed
Motion 9 seeking the facility for people who are short PRSI contributions to buy them back was passed
Motion 10 calling for the payment of a Survivor’s Pension even where the person was already in receipt of a Social Welfare pension was passed
Motion 11 calling for State Pensions to be set at 50% of Average Industrial Earning was passed
Motion 12 agreeing with Motion 11 also called for a rate of €300 in Budget 2008 and for the introduction of a mandatory second tier pension scheme was passed
Motion 13 calling for the facility to use the Travel Pass in EU States was passed
Motion 14 calling for the use of travel vouchers in rural areas was passed
Motion 15 seeking the facility for Travel Pass holders to book a seat on intercity trains was passed
Motion 16 seeking the facility for Travel Pass holders to get a return Rail ticket was passed
MINISTER FOR OLDER PEOPLE & A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR OLDER PEOPLE
Motion 17, 18, 19 all calling for the establishment of a Minister for older people and a National Strategy were passed
Motion 20 calling for the establishment of a National Partnership Forum for Older People under Social Partnership was passed
Motion 21& 22 calling for the equipping of all Post Offices with Audio Induction Loops by December 2008 in accordance with the Disability Act 2005 and also that all Dublin Airport Check in areas be similarly equipped prior to the holding of the AGM of the EU Federation of Hard of Hearing people in March 08 was passed.
Motion 23 demanding in this year of Equal Opportunities and end to all discrimination against Older People was passed.
POST OFFICE CLOSURES
Motion 24 which condemned the closure of rural post offices was passed
Motion 25 calling for integrated Day Care Medical Services for all was passed
Motion 26 seeking increased resources for A & E Departments was passed
Motion 27 calling for the introduction to all citizens of a ‘Social Health Insurance’ scheme to ensure fair access to the Health Services by all on the basis of need was passed
Motion 28 calling for an end to the provision of Private Beds in Public Hospitals was passed
Motion 29 seeking the provision of Breast and Prostate screening regardless of age was passed
Motion 30 withdrawn in favour of M31
Motion 31 calling for a National Service for all medical card holders was passed
Motion 32, 33 and 34 were referred to the incoming Executive Committee to be included in their response to “A Fair Deal”.
Motion 35 calling for adequate care Standards in both Home and Nursing homes was passed
Motion 36 calling for the provision of proper Home Care Packages was passed
Motion 37 calling for removal of VAT on the installation and cost of the newer energy-saving heating systems was passed
Motion 38 calling for a tougher line in respect of anti-social behaviour was passed
Motion 39 that ECB rates of interest be the minimum paid on savings was passed
Motion 40 was referred to the incoming Executive Committee
Motion 41 calling for the provision of sufficient Wardens in Senior Citizens Housing complexes was passed
Motion 42 calling for an end to the single supplement charges by hotels was passed
Vote of Thanks to outgoing President Peter B Sands was proposed by Paddy Donegan who thanked Peter Sands for his outstanding term as President of the Parliament and wished him well in his new role as a Trustee.
He referred to Peter’s ability to source any document from his fantastic filing system. At meetings he could take his cue from Peter and if Peter didn’t query the minutes then they were definitely OK. Peter was one of the founding members of the Parliament and he was a dedicated worker on behalf of the Parliament during all that time. The last year had been an onerous one, with Social Partnership talks and the protracted discussions with Atlantic Philanthropies. Peter had represented the Parliament very well in all those discussions.
Peter never lost an opportunity to raise the issues of concern to Older People and their families in whatever forum he was in. The delegates would have seen some evidence of that today in his vote of thanks to Minister Power where he raised with him issues in the Health Service in respect of staffing levels, care packages and chiropody services.
Peter Sands is a decent man and he wished Peter good health and looked forward to continuing to work with him.
The meeting then concluded.