Sunday, 16 September 2012

Hayes wants to go after rich Pensioners

A group representing the elderly has expressed concern at comments made by Minister of State Brian Hayes in The Irish Times today in which he said pensioners were the one group not to have suffered income loss in the recession.

Patricia Conboy, director of advocacy group Older and Bolder rejected Mr Hayes’ assertion.
“It is simply not true to suggest that older people have been untouched by cuts since the economic crisis began. Minister Brian Hayes is reported as saying that the Irish political system will never countenance cutbacks on older people.

“These remarks are made in the aftermath of a decision to apply a cut of €12.5 million to home care services targeted at the most frail and vulnerable older people in our society. This cut has not been reversed by the Government.”

Ms Conboy said it was a “myth” that older people have been immune from cuts. This "myth", she said, “must be nailed for once and for all”.

"Older people have been affected by: the loss of the Christmas bonus, implementation of Universal Social Charge, prescription charges, electricity levy, introduction of household charge, reduction in the Fuel Allowance from 32 to 26 weeks, increased tax on home heating fuel, reduction in medical card cover for dentistry, increases in Vat and Dirt (tax on savings), cuts in frontline health and social care services, rising costs of medical insurance; and they will be affected by planned water and carbon tax charges. "

"We must not soften up older people for cuts in the forthcoming budget on the basis of mis-perceptions,” she said.

Ms Conboy made her comments after Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes said the Irish political system needs to overcome its inability to countenance budgetary cutbacks affecting older people because many of them are “very well off”.

Mr Hayes also said yesterday that it was not sustainable to have nearly 50 per cent of college students on grants.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Hayes said lots of elderly people told him they were “well off” because they did not have mortgages and he was sure that Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton of Labour would look at the issue ahead of the budget.

“I think we need to realise that the one group of people in this country who have come through this crash and still have their incomes intact are pensioners,” he said.

He stressed that he was not talking about people who depended solely on the State pension. “I’m talking about people here with multiple pensions who have their houses paid for, who of course have lost money on share dealings and the like,” he said.

“But it seems to me that the Irish political system will never countenance cutbacks on the elderly. My view is that all this needs to be on the table,” he said.

“I meet a lot of older people who tell me they’re well off because they don’t have mortgages, and they see their kids in an appalling situation because of negative equity.”

Mr Hayes’s comments could put the Government on a collision course with the so-called grey power movement. The previous administration faced such vocal opposition to budgetary changes restricting access to medical cards for the over-70s in 2008 that the plans were revised.

Mr Hayes said that developing a system that catered for “inter-generational equity and justice” would prove a challenge for Government.

“But there are many, many elderly people who are very well off and insofar as we can look at that issue in the budget I’m sure the Minister for Social Protection will look at it.”
Mr Hayes said pensioners were people with “common sense and judgment” who would understand the need to look at the State’s contribution to them. This would not be done in “some kind of hairshirt way” but rather in a “sensible” manner.

He also said that almost half of college students were in receipt of grants and that could not continue.
“Students need to pay their way,” he said. “It’s not sustainable in my view that nearly 50 per cent of all kids going to college at the moment are getting a grant.”

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