Age Action says pensioners forced to choose between food or heating
Many elderly go to bed at 7pm to stay warm, charity says in pre-budget submission
Age Action’s chief executive Robin Webster (left) with policy officer Lorna Roe and head of advocacy Eamon Timmins at the launch of Age Action’s pre-budget submission. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Many elderly people have to make choices between heating their homes or buying food, with some admitting they go to bed as early as 7pm to stay warm, the national charity Age Action has said.
According to its pre-budget submission, some pensioners can no longer even afford to keep a family pet, while others don’t meet friends because they can’t afford cafe prices.
Age Action, which carried out a nationwide consultation among older people this year, said the cumulative effect of successive austerity budgets on the elderly had been “shocking”.
Spokesman Eamon Timmins said responses to the consultation showed older people were facing “severe decisions” as they tried to adapt to cuts and rising prices.
Age Action’s budget submission makes 32 recommendations including:
l Protection of the State pension given its importance as the bulwark against poverty in later life for many pensioners;
l The reversal of cuts to the household benefits package introduced in Budget 2013;
l Ring-fencing of carbon tax revenue to address Ireland‘s fuel-poverty situation;
l A property tax exemption for households with an income of under €12,000 per annum, and scrapping of the 4 per cent interest charge for low-income households who opt to defer the payment.
According to Mr Timmins, older people dependent on the State for their income and essential services have been among the worst hit by austerity. On the income side their fixed pensions were expected to pay a series of new taxes and charges including the property tax, which Mr Timmins said was equivalent to two or three weeks’ pension for some.
Older people have also been hit by the prescription charge which was trebled in the last budget. They have been hit by the carbon tax which was extended this year to solid fuel, and the increased charge on a person’s home for a nursing home bed.
At the same time key supports have been cut, including the means-tested winter fuel allowance, which was cut by six weeks. The gas, electricity and phone allowance was also cut under the household benefits package, while there were cuts to the respite care grant and reductions in funding for the home adaptation grant. Mr Timmins also listed the loss of bin-charge waivers.
Prices for essential goods and services were “soaring”, he said, and key services on which older people depended had also been cut. For example, the Health Service Executive is expected to provide two million home-help hours fewer this year than it provided in 2007.
The submission also claimed austerity had a “psychological toll” on older people.”
Anxiety about further cuts and uncertainty about what the future holds were common among many who responded to the public consultation, with some feeling they were viewed as a burden on society.