Thursday, 15 October 2020
Financial Resolutions 2020 - Financial Resolution No. 7: General (Resumed)
Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
It might come as a surprise to some people here, but before this budget I had every confidence that the Government would get something right. Instead, it put developers, vulture funds, landlords and big businesses before our older people, carers, the working poor and those in receipt of the pandemic unemployment payment. I am not against big business, but if workers must pay their fair share, that burden should be spread among employers. I received a message from a constituent yesterday which read, "This must have been the most honest budget ever. At least they had the decency to wear masks when they were robbing us".
As the Sinn Féin spokesperson for older people, I am looking at the budget from their point of view. I will not give the usual Opposition speech which tells the Government how bad the budget is. I will leave that up to the impartial bodies advocating for our older people. I will outline a flavour of their opinion.
Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, has, welcomed as I did, the increased investment in home care supports and support hours, something it and other organisations have advocated for over recent years. However, he expressed his concern that older people are not mentioned enough in this budget and said the measures did not adequately reflect the pre-existing and exasperating challenges faced by older people in today's world. He was also disheartened to see that the Government had failed to set the State pension at the average weekly wage agreed in the Government's roadmap for pensions reform. He was not alone in that. I, too, share his sentiments.
Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland, said Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party committed in the programme for Government to build a society that properly values older people and one in which older people can live full and active lives in their communities. However, in her opinion budget 2021 falls short of delivering that society. She went on to say that the budget was an opportunity to ensure the supports older people need are properly resourced. She is disappointed in the Government and thinks it is a missed opportunity. She is especially disappointed that the Government did not increase the State pension. Older people are spending more time at home as a result of the pandemic, which is leading to an increase in heating bills. An increase in the State pension would have helped older people to deal with the rise in the cost of living.
Age Action Ireland said budget 2021 did not offer the majority of older people the support they need to meet the rising cost of living. Covid-19, the carbon tax and Brexit will have an impact, but the budget did not contain adequate measures to support older people.
The top rate of all current State pension contributions remains substantially below the at risk of poverty rate. Budget 2021 saw no increase in the core State pension rate. It did not allow for any increase in the cost of living nor did it support people who have to withstand economic shocks. Incomes for those who are living with others have stood still since 2019. This is totally and wholly unacceptable and should be changed.