As an organisation, the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament (ISCP) advocates to ensure that the voice of older people is included in policy decisions that affect the everyday quality of life. Our members are now voicing that they are gravely concerned with the increasing numbers of older people falling into deepening poverty as a direct result of the cost-of-living increases. Older people are concerned about the price of their daily shopping basket. This is coupled with large increases in fuel costs creating a huge burden for pensioners.
Our members feel that the Budget 2022 increase in the state pension payment of €5 is an utter disappointment. ISCP requested a minimum €15, which would allow for the lack of pension increase over the last two years and the already projected rise in the cost of living. The value of €5 has instantly been wiped out with the rise in carbon taxes, fuel costs and the ever-increasing cost of living. As a result, pensioners in Ireland are sinking into deepening poverty.
Many older people are faced daily with a financial struggle to afford essentials such as heating their home, affording adequate winter clothes or ensuring they can eat a healthy balanced diet. We regularly hear from members who live in rural settings, often alone. These individuals depend on their car so that they can drive to their nearest shop for food supplies. Our members tell us that they often go to the supermarket late at night as that is when deals are stocked on clearance shelves making it easier to afford food purchases. With rising car costs such as insurance and fuel, the percentage remaining from the weekly pension of €253.30 further limits the amount available for food.
Some of the actions named in the Budget 2022 to address the issue of fuel increases were not accessible to older people. Almost 70% of people reliant on the state pension did not qualify for the extension of the Fuel Allowance. As many people were spending more time indoors due to Covid restrictions, this again created a dilemma for older people as to where money would be spent; heating or reducing shopping bills. The lack of any commitment to offer a secure agreed increase on an annual basis for the pension adds additional anxiety especially as the last two years saw no increase.
Many people as they age, worry as to how they will cope with the ongoing maintenance of their home; from the basic painting, decorating, and gardening to the much larger items needed to ensure an energy efficient home. Retrofitting is worthwhile and beneficial, but the scheme excludes many older people who do not have the savings base to secure a loan to do the work.
For older people who might consider moving to a smaller energy efficient house, they report the complete lack of viable options available for them within their own community. The ongoing housing crisis has only added to this issue.
Our older people have worked and served their communities throughout their lives and continue to do so through volunteering and being involved in activities that support their community. We are calling on the Government to do more and to make serious changes and increases to the pension and payments to older people. The rising poverty among our older citizens is a crisis that needs to be addressed.
The ISCP is launching a campaign on the 14th of February to tackle the rising cost of living for older people in Ireland. We have sent letter and email templates to members asking them to submit them to their TDs during the week of the 14th of February. Together we can make a difference.