Support Pensions and Services for Older Persons


The Social Democrats want to ensure that people can feel confident about what they will receive at retirement, whether this is a pension payable from the state or a pension through a savings arrangement. This confidence requires clarity and simplicity in communication, certainty that the rules governing the pension environment will remain unchanged as well as responsible planning for future increases to the pensions payable from the state.

However, security in old age is not just about income. It is critical that we provide decent public services for older people to ensure their full participation in society, to counteract isolation, and to ensure they have access to appropriate housing and healthcare.

The Social Democrats will prioritise the following policies:

PENSION INCOME:

  • Raise the State Pension in line with the CPI, with further increases for pensioners living on their own;
  • Reform State Pension entitlement criteria to reflect time out of workforce for various reasons such as family care;
  • Give an unequivocal commitment that future raids on pension funds, such as the pension levy that was imposed by Fine Gael/Labour Government (and which removed €2.3 billion from people’s savings) will not recur;
  • Introduce legislation to prevent employers with the financial resources to meet the liabilities in their pension schemes, from simply walking away from the benefit promises;
  • Commit that workers who wish to save to make their retirement years more comfortable would continue to be encouraged to do so and would continue to be financially incentivised by the State up to certain limits;
  • Ensure tax incentives for pension savings are limited to provide pensions no greater than €60,000 p.a. The Fine Gael/Labour Government promised to do this but did not fully introduce this measure;
  • Ensure structures are in place to keep pension scheme costs to a modest level.

HOUSING:

  • Expand the list of work covered by the existing local authority housing aid grants scheme to include items such as windows and poorly functioning or damaged boilers;
  • Provide ring fenced local authority funding to build senior citizen accommodation, and fund financial contribution schemes in areas where it is demographically desirable;
  • Increase the budget for the community alert scheme by €1 million to provide a partial grant for annual monitoring costs (generally €60 – €80 per annum);
  • Change planning laws so that all new developments must include a range of homes suitable for all stages of the life-cycle.

MEDICAL:

  • Reform and extend the Fair Deal scheme to cover home-care packages;
  • Assess applications for the over 70s medical card on the net income of the applicant to make it easier for people with large medical bills to qualify; introduce a transitional income band for those over 60;
  • Recognise the importance of informal carers and the billions they save the state each year by removing the habitual residency condition for those with previous PRSI contributions.

COMMUNITY:

  • Adopt an implementation plan for the National Positive Ageing Strategy;
  • Recognise the intrinsic value of active retirement to the mental and intellectual wellbeing of senior citizens and protect funding to community groups providing social and educational opportunities to older people;
  • Give a commitment to protecting the Free Travel Scheme, and to improving rural public transport by ensuring it is linked to transport hubs;
  • Allow older people in areas with poor transport connectivity to exchange their free travel pass for “travel vouchers”, in the same manner as the UK’s Rural Transport Voucher scheme.