A €5 weekly increase in the State pension from next March will do little for thousands of elderly people living in the poverty bracket, according to older people’s rights activist Paddy O’Brien.
Budget 2018 sees a €5 per week increase in the State Pension, as well as a €5 weekly increase across all weekly social welfare payments including Disability Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and Jobseekers’ Allowance.
These increases are due to take effect in the last week of March 2018.
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also announced that all social welfare recipients will receive a Christmas Bonus payment, worth 85% of their allowance, again this year.
“Quite honestly, I’m disappointed that the pension increase is €5 only, it won’t make a great difference,” Mr O’Brien told the Echo.
“There are currently 500,000 people relying on the State pension only. They don’t have a private pension and it is exceptionally difficult for these people.”
“There is a now a high number of elderly people living in the poverty bracket, who are finding it exceptionally difficult to even exist,” he said.
“What I find most appalling about this is that the Government is aware of their exceptional hardship and yet still, this €5 increase will only come in next March. That’s six months away.” Elderly people could use this increase in the coming winter months to go towards their heating bills, he added.
“It was seven years that elderly people in this country had to wait, without a single penny of an increase.”
However, Mr O’Brien welcomed the partial restoration in the Telephone and Fuel Allowance.
“I won’t be negative about that, at least that’s something,” he said.
“Thousands of elderly people in this country were forced to disconnect their phones when they couldn’t pay their rental after the allowance was cut. This means there are thousands of people living on their own without a phone to call someone in the event of an emergency.”
Both allowances should be fully reinstated in the future, he added.
Age Action cautiously welcomed the increase in the State Pension as well as the partial restoration of both the telephone allowance and the fuel allowance and the reduction in prescription charges.
However, they criticised the Government’s decision to delay the pension increase until the end of March and the failure to reverse the 2012 pension cuts.
“It is disappointing the pension increase is again delayed, especially when it is needed in January and February to help pay heating bills," Age Action said.