ALONE appeal for a reform to the State Pension system in the upcoming budget

 ALONE, the organisation which supports older people is calling on Government to reassess its approach to pensions and to reform the current system to protect future generations, as well as those currently in receipt of pensions.

 

With financial issues being one of the biggest concerns raised by the older people who use ALONE’s services, we see daily reporting in the lack of quality in their day-to-day lives due to inadequate funds. They are calling on the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to increase the state pension by €7 in Budget 2021, to ensure that older people are protected during difficult economic times, like now. ALONE are in agreement with government policy, outlined in the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018 – 2023, that pension rates should be equal to average weekly earnings. Ultimately, ALONE are seeking to work towards an overall increase of €26.92 to the state pension, raising it to €275.22. This is based on 35% of an average weekly wage of €786.33, as per data from the Central Statistics Office in 2019. (CSO, Q4 2019)

 

ALONE have also noted the fact that older people who were working up until the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland are not entitled to receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This is a concern which has been raised in calls made to the National Support Line. ALONE are mindful of this issue and recognise the unjust and discriminative act of excluding a specific cohort of people simply because of their age. They are working to raise awareness of this with Government in order to try and reach a solution for individuals in this situation

 

Tom* is 72 years old and is a self-employed entertainer in nursing homes. He contacted ALONE’s Support Line to highlight the fact that the COVID-19 unemployment payments were very discriminative towards older people. Many older people supplement their Old Age Pension by continuing to work, and are not entitled to any supplemental income as the rest of the country due to current crisis. Tom wrote a letter to his local TD who responded stating that he should be happy with his extra bags of fuel, especially because he doesn’t pay PRSI. Tom started work at 15 years of age and has paid PRSI all his life, until he became self-employed in later years, when he started paying his ROS tax annually and on time.  ALONE encouraged Tom to contact his Social Welfare department and Citizen’s Information to see if they know of any additional benefits he may be able to claim at the moment, as he’s down about €800 a month and has commitments he is obliged to maintain.

 

While ALONE welcome the news that the government will implement an auto-enrolment system for pensions, the organisation would like to see a clear timeline for its implementation, with more details announced on this as soon as possible. ALONE is also urging the government to implement a universal pensions model, as set out by Social Justice Ireland. A universal pension is a flat-rate entitlement paid to all residents over a certain defined and qualifying age, regardless of their previous social insurance contributions.

 

Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE said, “ALONE have been receiving calls to the National Support Line from older people regarding the fact that older people who were working were not entitled to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. We are aware of this issue and we offer our support to those who find themselves in this difficult situation. We hope that by raising this issue with Government, a solution will be reached to try and rectify this.”

 

He continued, “The State Pension in Ireland is based on the assumption that the recipient has no mortgage, rent or other housing debt to be covered by the pension payment. It is designed to cover the cost of living, but not every day living costs. This issue will be only exacerbated in the coming years by our ever growing population, which is causing an increase in those over the age of 65.  We believe that that structure, continuity and ongoing commitment is needed from Government to address the long-term issue of pension reform.”

 

Since March, ALONE’s Support Line has received in excess of 30,973 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 166,656 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 25,318 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 14,522 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

 

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie

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