Donegal couple frustrated at lack of support to meet cost of cocooning

My budget: Kevin Monaghan (74) says he and his wife ‘are to the pin of our collar’ with expenses

Kevin Monaghan lives with his wife Mairéad in Lifford, Co Donegal, currently the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in the State.

Mr Monaghan (74) and his wife (69), a former factory worker, are both retired. They live on the State pension and supplementary pensions from their previous employment.

Mr Monaghan, a former paramedic and ambulance driver, said he and his wife “are to the pin of our collar” meeting the extra expenses which come with cocooning.

The failure to increase the basic State pension of €203 for the second year in a row is a disappointment, he said.

“There has been no mention whatsoever about the sacrifices that old people made at great cost to themselves by using extra fuel and lighting,” he said.

“There hasn’t been a recognition of this. They did act heroically and they did everything that they were told and they complied with the guidelines 100 per cent.

“Some elderly people are paying for taxis to go and collect their groceries and that hadn’t been recognised either.”

He said the Government has “given with one hand and taken away with another” by increasing the winter fuel allowance by €3.50 a week for some pensioners but taking it away again by increasing the carbon tax.

He is frustrated the winter fuel allowance has not been extended more widely to take account of those who have cocooned and those who will cocoon during the coming winter.

“It’s only being given to the over-80s, but there is no sign of it being extended to other pensioners,” he said.

He also said there has been no rise in the public sector pension for the last 12 years to match salaries in the public sector. “It used to be the case that it was index linked. They haven’t broken that link, but they are not paying it.”

“There is another group of people who work in the public service and have retired on superannuation pensions. They have not had a rise in 10 to 12 years.

“If you look at nurses and cleaners and kitchen staff, a lot of those people will be coming up to retirement and will they be left on superannuation pay?” he pointed out.

“There are whole lots of groups of people who have contributed to society and they have been left without anything.”

He said the Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler had raised expectations of providing some mental and physical health supports for elderly people, but they had not materialised in the budget.

“It is very much an issue for an older people because they are scared and the cost of living is going to go up substantially because of the carbon tax,” he added. “There is a whole big issue about public transport. People won’t use it because they are terrified. Where are the supports for these people going to come from?”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times