IRISH SENIOR Citizens Pre-Budget Submission
Budget 2014 must have a strong message of HOPE. It must be FAIR to ALL across the lifecycle and must not seek to ignite fires between the generations. Citizens young and old are suffering from AUSTERITY FATIGUE.
We welcome the fact that the State Pension has been maintained at the same rate even though the purchasing power and value have been eroded by the imposition of taxes and charges. The myth that older people have not been affected by the recession and the austerity measures is just that – A MYTH.
What the ISCP wants to Stay the Same?
- The State Pension (contributory and non-contributory) to be retained at their current rate.
- Reversal of the Abolition of the Transition Pension.
- The Travel Pass to be retained.
- The Living Alone & Over 80 Allowances to be increased.
What needs to Improve
Household Benefits Package
The package should revert to one that is unit based so that the value to the older person whether rural or urban will be the same. This was the original objective of the package to provide light, heat and a channel of communication to older people will continue. We are concerned that in some cases, cash, may add to the risk of financial abuse of older people. Budget 2013 changes resulted in the creation of a rural urban divide as the cost to rural dwellers was €8 dearer. A solution must be found to enable the State to tender for the supply of these utilities at a reasonable price.
People Who Live Alone
Day to day living is difficult for all but it is especially so for those older people who live alone and also for the older old. Those in the older old category tell us that they find it difficult to survive. Their savings are gone. New government and pre-existing charges are based on a “per household “basis. So no account is taken of Household composition. Examples are the Local Property Tax (LPT), Prescription Charges (PCS) and the HSE Drugs Refund Scheme. The Prescription Charges limit is €19.50 per household per month. The HSE Drug Refund Scheme limit is €144 per household per month. A charge of up to €5 per week can result for a medical card holder or €38 per week for those with out a medical card.
We seek a 50% reduction in the limits for all three categories above in respect of people living alone.
Age & Living Alone Allowance
We are seeking an increase of €5 per week in the Over 80 Allowance and an increase of €8 in the Living Alone Allowance.
We seek the restoration of 3 weeks of the original 6 weeks which were cut in 2011 as well as a promise to make a payment when the temperature drops below a certain agreed level. We are pleased to acknowledge that the Minister made an additional payment in 2013.
In May 2013 this tax was extended to solid fuel such as coal and turf when a rate of €10 per tonne was applied. From May 2014 a further €10 will apply to bring the rate to €20 per tonne. The combined effect of the reductions in the Fuel Allowance and the Carbon Tax together with the fact that many older people live in poorly insulated houses is impacting on them very badly. Money must be used to retrofit these homes.
Universal Social Charge
Our Annual Parliament Meeting 2013 passed a motion asking the Minister for Finance to increase the rate by 3% for those with incomes over €100,000 per year.
Local Property Tax
This was the number one item of concern and anger in our consultations with members. Timing may have been a factor. Most told us they paid it reluctantly and they do not know how they will pay for the full year in 2014. We are seeking a percentage reduction for those who live alone and also for older couples living in older poorly insulated houses on low incomes. People will not seek a deferral as they do not want to leave a debt after death. There is concern also about the Local Authority Discretion. We call on the Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government to re-consider the question of the discretion allowed to local authorities regarding the 18% rate and the “local decision factor” which allows them to vary the rate by up to +/- 15% from 2015.
We are disappointed at the lack of consultation to date concerning this proposed charge. It must be fair and based on usage with a specified allowance per household and due regard taken of the composition of households as well as any specific age related issues which increase water usage.
We support the extension of PRSI to the self employed. A system which ensures that all citizens are insured to a basic level is by far the fairest. It also forces people to begin to make provision for themselves and their families which is underpinned by the State.
The TravelPass is greatly valued by older people. It is a major factor in allowing them to actively participate in their local communities and also to assist family and friends in caring and other activities. The ISCP will assist in any initiatives to prevent misuse of the Pass. It must be retained
Stamp Duty Levy on Pensions
We urge the Minister for Finance to honour his promise that this charge will cease in 2014. That any surpluses be applied to reduce the levy amount. We seek the repeal of the legislation.
Those aged over 60 tell us that they cannot find paid work and are experiencing real hardship. Many expected to get the Transition Pension at 65 but this is now abolished. We are making a special plea for an increase for those aged 60-66 years with a special emphasis on those aged 65.
PENSIONS & Pension Policy
We support the view that the State Pension should be the basic tenet for any new scheme and that it should be mandatory with a facility for top ups throughout the working life. We also call for a Right of Audience for Pensioners in all forums where matters affecting their pension payments are discussed.
Department of Health
Health continues to be an area of major concern to Older People. Many had high hopes that the promises would be delivered on. Minister for Health, James Reilly T.D. continues to re-iterate his commitment to deliver a universal single tier health service in the future. We support the launch of Healthy Ireland and note the Minister’s commitment to Prevention. However Older People will continue to get sick and to need a full range on medical interventions. So what Older people want is treatment now for the ailments they have so lets get to it.
National Positive Ageing Strategy
We welcome the publication of the Strategy by Minister Lynch and look forward to the publication of the Implementation Plan. It will be a true measure of the Government’s commitment to Older People.
Nursing Home Support Scheme
Budget 2013 with effect from July 2013 increased the cost to participants in the Scheme from 15% to 21.5% -an increase of 50%. There continues to be delays in the system of approval and placement which is causing hardship.
Private Health Insurance
The chaotic situation in our hospitals is forcing many older people to struggle to retain private cover. They are seeking the intervention of the Minister to seek to simplify the range and pricing of plans.
Regulation of Community Care
Clear standards must be developed and enforced to ensure all care setting for older people are measured and inspected.
Security for Older People
We welcome the fact that there will be Garda recruitment in 2014. Security and fear of attack are a major source of concern to older people.
A holistic approach must be taken to the provision of local transport services which meet the needs and suit the lived lives of older people and others across the lifecycle. Local Authorities must ensure that the routes suit the users and are not based on county boundaries.
The manner and vigour with which some older people tell us they are being pursued in respect of medical card reviews is truly frightening. The loss of a card is catastrophic as it is an entrée to many services which would not otherwise be available.
We welcome the promise by the Minister that the Free TV licence will continue for Older People. Paperless Billing as many service providers are trying to stealth to move all customers to paperless billing we urge the Minister to introduce legislation which is fair to all to deal with the issues involved.
Insulation: Owner occupiers on low income cannot afford the upfront costs to upgrade their houses. We urge the Minister to address this matter with urgency in this Budget.
Every effort is made to ensure that all information in this Pre-Budget Submission is correct at time of going to press. The ISCP cannot accept responsibility for errors.