Ireland’s most vulnerable older people should be protected from cuts in the upcoming budget, Age Action has told the Government.
“Age Action accepts that older people will play their part in helping to resolve the current economic situation, as they have always done. However, there are certain vulnerable groups of older people who cannot give any more and who should be protected from direct and indirect cuts,” said Age Action CEO Robin Webster.
Mr Webster added that failure to do this would result in increased suffering and hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in Ireland.
In a submission sent to the Government, Age Action identified vulnerable people as those who are chronically ill, those on very low incomes, those living alone, those currently struggling to heat their homes, those living in areas without public transport and are unable to drive, and those who need some support to enable them remain living in their own homes.
“Those whose needs are so great but have so little in the latter years of their lives have most to lose if the Government fails to protect them on budget day. Government ministers have spoken about their commitment to protecting the most vulnerable, so we are spelling out who the most vulnerable are among our older people, and what payments and supports they are depending on,” Mr Webster said.
Age Action, the national network on ageing and older people in Ireland, stated that almost one third of people aged 50 to 59 have a long-term illness and almost two thirds of over-65s report chronic illness. Almost a third of older people report having difficulty with basic functions for everyday living such as climbing a stairs or lifting or carrying objects, it said.
According to Age Action, the Government should maintain levels of home care packages, home helps, respite care and home adaptation grants to support the sick living in their own homes. Existing payments to carers should be protected, and grants for aid and appliances for the home should not be reduced.
Age Action reiterated that older people without medical cards should be protected from rising medical costs. The Government should ensure that medicines which older people need are not removed from the medical card scheme, it said.
Furthermore, Age Action has insisted that the Government must maintain the existing state pension as their main source of income, and maintain the over-80s payment at its current level. The living alone allowance, which currently stands at €7.70 per week, should also be protected.
One third of older people have unmet transport needs, particularly in rural areas. Age Action has highlighted the importance of maintaining free travel for over-66s, and protecting funding for the rural transport initiative.
In 2001, Ireland had the second highest proportion of people aged 65 years and over, and people aged 85 years and over, living in nursing homes and hospital in the EU. Many low dependency residents would have been able to remain in their own homes, if sufficient supports were provided. Age Action has stated that sufficient funds should be provided for home adaptation grants, and the number of home care packages planned for in the HSE Service Plan 2009 should be given.
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