Pre-Budget 2016 Submission

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1 ACTIVE RETIREMENT NETWORK IRELAND MISSION STATEMENT ARNI will reach out to all older people to end loneliness through friendship and support Pre-Budget 2016 Submission June 2015

2 1. Introduction 1.1 About Active Retirement Ireland Active Retirement Ireland (ARI) is a national network of over 560 local Active Retirement Associations (ARAs) with over 24,500 members. The organisation works through a regional structure consisting of 9 regions. ARI believes that older people have the right to be full and participative members of our society. The organisation combats ageism through the reality and everyday work of the self-organised local associations and the regional councils. It has a large voluntary base with local, regional and national voluntary committees. The mission purpose of Active Retirement Ireland is to reach out to all older people to stop loneliness through friendship and support. The objectives are: To promote a more positive attitude to ageing and retirement by encouraging men and women to maintain their independence and to participate through the active retirement movement for enhancing their quality of life. To enable retired people to enjoy a full and active life and to advocate for them. To be a recognised voice for retired people on social, health, learning and economic issues in collaboration with other organisations. 2. The background for this submission 2.1 Consultation with members In preparing this submission we undertook numerous consultations with our members. Members were asked to identify the issues of concern at a series of leadership and voice workshops delivered in February and March across the organisation. Further consultations were held during the nine regional AGMs; Eastern Region South South Dublin City and County, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Wicklow and Kildare Eastern Region North North Dublin City and Fingal North East Region- Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Cavan North West Region Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim Western Region Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon Midwest Region Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary Southern Region Cork and Kerry South East Region Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and South Tipperary Midland Region Westmeath, Longford, Laois and Offaly

3 Number of Active Retirement Associations per region Eastern North, 36 North West, 53 North East, 50 Eastern south, 68 Western, 78 South East, 77 Midland, 63 Southern, 84 Midwest, 55 The final consultation was through motions put by the members at the national AGM in April where 485 representatives of the local associations and regions were in attendance. 2.2 Issues raised The primary concern for the members is the struggle to maintain a healthy and adequate life on a limited income, despite the personal rate of the State Pension remaining untouched, the incomes of older people have reduced through numerous cuts and taxes and additional charges. The consultations also began a discussion on what the government could do to improve the lives of older people. The main areas of concern identified were; Rural transport and cuts to vital routes, closure of rural post offices and garda stations, waiting time for Fair Deal application approval; lack of priority of older people within the Education and Training Boards funding at community education level, lack of age friendly community supports While acknowledging the above issues as important in creating a country that values and protects older people, the main issues that form the body of the 2016 pre budget submission for ARI are as follows;

4 3 Income Related Supports 3.1 State Pensions The State Pension (Contributory and Non-Contributory) has remained static since While this has been welcomed by members, this fixed income has had to cover the additional costs of charges and increased cost of living in particular water charges and Local Property Taxes. This has become more and more challenging for older people to maintain an adequate quality of life and standard of living in recent years. The OECD made a recommendation in 2014 that more flexibility in taxation be provided in allowing retirees to combine work income and pensions. The key purpose of this is to improve the financial system of the pension system in Ireland. However it could also ensure more adequate retirement income where older people have the option of topping up their pension through employment in times of hardship. In order for the State Pension, both Contributory and Non-Contributory, to continue to act as a buffer against poverty and to restore faith in having an adequate income the State Pension must be increased by a minimum of 5 per week. Any future reform of the pension schemes must include people whose employment record is interrupted through caring responsibilities or illness. 3.2 The Universal Social Charge The budget 2015 reduced by 0.5% many of the standard rates of USC, which was welcome. While all State Pensions are exempt from the USC, other incomes including occupational pensions have the USC applied. Scrap the Universal Social Charge on all pensions under 17,576 and apply it at 3.5% or less to pensions above 17, Household Benefits Package This support for basic items such as telephone, utilities and the TV licence is very important for older people. The Household Benefits Package for those over 70 years, and people aged 60 to 70 on low incomes, is crucial as a state support that provides security to older people to meet everyday household costs. The 2013 budget cut the value of the gas/electricity allowance and encouraged people to switch supplier based on best value. This did not result in savings for many older people who were not inclined to switch to an online billing system. The 2014 budget abolished the

5 telephone allowance which caused a lot of anxiety for older people who relied on their landline for security, personal alarms and social connectedness. One in three older people live alone and having a landline connection enables them to access the Senior Alert Scheme, which is an invaluable support for older people who wish to remain secure in their own homes. Reinstate the telephone allowance in recognition of it as a valuable support to allow older people remain secure and as a means of addressing social isolation and loneliness. Reverse the gas/electricity cuts of the Household Benefits Package and restore the unit cost method rather than lump sum method to cover the increased PSO and Standing charges. 3.4 Living Alone Allowance This allowance is a Government support designed to address the risk of poverty in older people who live alone. This allowance was increased in 2015 budget for the first time since 1996 to 9 per week. Increase the Living Alone Allowance to 10 per week in recognition of its role in addressing the risk of poverty for older people who live alone. 3.5 The Christmas Bonus This bonus payment at Christmas time was abolished in 2008, a move which effectively took a full weekly social protection payment away. In the 2015 budget 25% of the original bonus was reinstated acknowledging the contribution this payment made towards costs at Christmas time. Restore the full Christmas Bonus payment. 3.6 Fuel Allowance The Fuel Allowance, made payable to eligible households under the National Fuel Scheme to help with the cost of heating their homes, is a means tested payment and as such is paid to those on low incomes. Budget 2012 reduced the time this allowance is paid from 32 weeks to 26 weeks, taking 120 out of the annual income for Fuel Allowance recipients, including older people. In a survey carried out with members, ARI found that older people generally tend to use more fuel and have less energy-efficient homes. A further study done in 2011 Fuel poverty, older people and cold weather: An all-island analysis by Goodman et al, found

6 that older people are more likely to experience adverse health effects resulting from inadequate home heating. Reverse the 2012 cut of six weeks from the Fuel Allowance and maintain the current value. A mechanism should also be put in place to allow a lump sum payment to be made towards the cost of home heating oil as part of the scheme. Redirect funds raised through Carbon Tax to target and fund better home energy efficiency programmes for older people. 3.7 The Housing Adaption Grant The funding, available to older people to create a liveable environment in their own homes as their ability declines, is insufficient to cover costs of enabling older people and people with disabilities to remain in their own homes for as long as possible despite the stated aim of the Government to facilitate this. Reductions were made to this grant in 2014, which not only included cuts to the maximum amount available in the grant but also an increase in the age for eligibility from 60 to 66. Reverse the changes made to the Housing Adaptation Grant in January 2014 in order to sufficiently cover the costs of enabling older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, and therefore reducing costs of health and social care services.

7 4. Health and Social care 4.1 Medical Card Between 2001 and 2008 everyone over 70 years in the State was automatically entitled to a medical card. Under the Health Act 2008 automatic entitlement to a medical card for this age group came to an end. Since January 2009 people in this age bracket who apply for a medical card are subject to means testing. Pensions, earnings, interest from capital and all other sources of income are included in the means test. From 2009 through to late 2012, if an older person s weekly gross income was below 700 (or 1400 for a couple) they were deemed eligible for a medical card. Budget 2013 saw these thresholds being reduced to 600 for an individual and 1200 for a couple. These thresholds were further reduced in Budget The gross income limit for the over-70s medical card is 500 per week for a single person and 900 per week for a couple. People with an income of between 500 and 700 (for a single person) or between 900 and 1,400 (for a married or cohabiting couple) receive a GP visit card in place of a medical card. Related to the entitlement to medical card and GP visit card entitles are the changes to prescription and medicine costs for older persons, as follows: 4.2 Increased prescription charges for medical card holders In Budget 2010, a charge of 50 cent was introduced in respect of each prescription item dispensed to medical card holders. Previously these items were free. Budget 2012 increased this charge to 1.50 per item on prescription with cap of per month. Budget 2014 further increased these charges to 2.50 per item with a cap of 25. This increase has been criticised for literally targeting the poorest and sickest members of society, many of whom are older persons. 4.3 Increase in Drugs Payment Scheme Threshold for non medical card holders Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, an individual or family in Ireland will only ever have to pay a maximum set amount each month for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and certain appliances for use by that person or his or her family in that month. This scheme is aimed at those who do not have a Medical Card and normally have to pay the full cost of their medication. It also applies to those who have a GP Visit Card. Successive budgets have seen an increase in the Drugs Payment Scheme Threshold. Budget 2010 saw the threshold increase from 100 to 120. Budget 2012 further increased the threshold from 120 to 132. Budget 2014 increased the threshold from 132 to 144.

8 This has become increasingly relevant for Ireland s older population with reduced access to medical cards. The rising threshold of the Drugs Payment Scheme in conjunction with reduction in the income threshold for medical card entitlement for over 70 s is likely to compound the hardship of affording adequate healthcare for many older people in Ireland. Base the entitlement to Over-70 medical cards for the Over-70s on net income, not gross, and in conjunction with a health and care assessment. Make the application for the medical card more user-friendly and less restrictive. Remove the cost of services carried out at GP practices such as new blood tests and certain diagnostic screening for patients with GP visit cards Reduce prescription charges to.50c per item with a monthly cap of 10 per individual.

9 5. Services 5.1 Transport The Free Travel Scheme has played a key role in promoting social inclusion and enhancing the quality of life of older people. It is the primary means of transport for those no longer able to drive for health reasons. Many older people use the scheme to attend medical and other appointments bringing business to towns and cities across Ireland. Restricting older people s use of their Free Travel pass would restrict their mobility and their participation in many activities. It would also place the most isolated and impoverished older people at direct risk of hospitalisation and need for long-term residential care. 5.2 Rural Transport Scheme In 2012 the Dept of Transport, Tourism & Sport assigned responsibility for managing the Rural Transport Programme to the National Transport Authority in line with the Programme for Government. The purpose of the Rural Transport Programme is to provide a quality nationwide, community-based public transport system in rural Ireland which responds to local need The National Transport Authority reviewed rural transport delivery structures in 2013 resulting in the report Strengthening the connections in Rural Ireland. The purpose of restructuring the Rural Transport Programme was to protect the provision of rural transport services into the future. Maintain the Free Travel Scheme as a universal benefit for citizens aged 66 and over. Given the importance of the Free Travel Scheme for health, economic and social benefits, this scheme needs to remain untouched. Any changes to public service routes provided by Bus Eireann must be done in conjunction with the NTA review of rural transport delivery so that no rural area loses an important service. 5.3 Lifelong Learning Community education budgets, which have been the main funder for non-accredited community based learning, is no longer targeting older people for support. Older people s groups are finding it harder to get financial support or tutors for their learning needs. Ensure that community education funding recognises the needs of older people as lifelong learners and that through learning older people can remain mentally and socially active.

10 6 Positive Ageing The National Positive Ageing Strategy was launched April 2013 with the implementation plan to follow within 6 months. This strategy is to provide each government department with a roadmap for planning for the changing demographics of ageing. With such a strategy there can be not integrated planning across all departments to ensure that getting older in Ireland is a positive experience and not a burden. The Government should Publish the Implementation Plan for the National Positive Ageing Strategy incorporating each department plan of action. Appoint a Minister for Older People to oversee and lead out the implementation of the strategy. Conclusion Active Retirement Ireland members believe that keeping socially connected, mentally and physically active contributes to a better quality of life and improved wellbeing. To keep well older people need to have Adequate income supports Access to professional and satisfactory services Appropriate transport services A government and public service that supports and values the contribution of older people and does not view ageing as a burden. ARI members work hard at contributing to their own health and wellbeing through a range of activities delivered in their local groups and within the whole organisation. We regard this as an investment by members in their own health (a contribution to the production of health of each member. By placing a monetary value on this based on the costs of social and leisure activities, it is estimated that for the current membership of 24,000 they contribute the equivalent of over 15 million worth of time invested in their own health each year. This is a significant contribution by older people to their own health and that of their communities. 1 1 Ní Léime et al. (2012). Evaluating the impact of membership of ARI on the lives of older people,

11 ARI s promise to government is to continue to support this contribution to members own health; we would ask that government promise to protect the vital supports and services that enable this to happen. With the population of over 65s set to increase by more than half, from over half a million to more than 790,000 by the year 2021 it is time to develop a new way of thinking about social care for older people; one that not only combines formal care provision based on need and disability, but also recognises that care must include respect, dignity and equality and that planning for an ageing population must focus on the valuable contributions of older people themselves. ENDS

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