Immediate financial buffer required to support older people to self-isolate

Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland today called on the Government and Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty to do more for those whose health and wellbeing is most at risk from Covid-19. While welcoming the measures by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to support workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland argue that those who rely solely on the State Pension have not got the financial bandwidth to meet the hidden costs of self-isolation, care costs and additional costs that arise from having a disability.

‘A once-off lump sum payment should be provided to those who are living on or close to the poverty line and are most impacted by Covid-19’, stated Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action.

Official poverty statistics from the CSO indicate that 11.4% of people aged 65 years and over were ‘at risk’ of poverty in 2018 meaning they are not able to withstand the immediate economic impact of COVID-19. People over the age of 65 depend on social protection for more than three-quarters of their income, for many older people the State Pension is often their only source of income.

Age Action and Active Retirement Ireland called for the Minister to;

  • To issue an emergency double State Pension payment (up to €237-€248.30 extra)
  • To immediately double the Living Alone Increase (€14 per week) to reach €28 per week, until the end of June
  • To extend the Fuel Allowance payment (€24.50 per week) to the end of June.    

‘We stated before Budget 2020 that failing to increase the State pension would not protect older people from economic shocks or emergencies; it left them with no cushion in their weekly to meet unforeseen costs. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a very real emergency for those people who depend on social welfare payments as they struggle to cope with additional costs such as additional fuel and utilities costs because they are at home more, additional food costs because they are restricted to home rather than the community centre or family and friends for meals, and costs related to deliveries of living essentials’ said Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action.

‘Many people on the partial State Pension continue to work to meet their needs as the pension isn’t enough to meet their living costs. We are conscious that some of those who have been made unemployed in recent weeks due to COVID-19 are not eligible for the Department’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment due to being in receipt of a (partial) State Pension. To mitigate the current and expected costs related to COVID-19 we are calling for an emergency payment for those in receipt of the State Pension calculated at 100% of the normal weekly state pension rate and an increase in the Living Alone Allowance and extension of the Fuel Allowance for the duration of the pandemic’ said Peter Kavanagh, Head of Communications & Public Affairs for Active Retirement Ireland. The top rate of the State Pension varies from €237.00 (Non-Contributory State Pension) to €248.30 (Contributory Pension) per week. Secondary benefits such as the Fuel Allowance, Free Travel and the Living Alone Increase play a key role in supporting people to age in place with dignity. However, Age Action and Active Retirement report that 75% of pensioners did not benefit from either the increase in the Fuel Allowance or the Living Alone Increase announced in Budget 2020. 

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