Age Action highly critical of new government's pension plan

Could further increases in the retirement age be necessary?

Age Action has reacted with disappointment to the proposals for older people and the future of the State pension included in the new Programme for Government.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy at Age Action, says that Fine Gael has broken its promise:

"In their election manifesto Fine Gael promised to increase the State Pension by €25 over five years, but in the Programme for Government there is only a commitment to increase it 'above the rate of inflation'".

At a conference on the State pension this week, Moran called on the Government to move away from a "one-term" way of thinking and put in place a plan to deal with the rising numbers of older people over the coming years.

Organised by the Society of Actuaries in Ireland, the conference followed a 2015 report by Millman which found that the State pension is currently unsustainable financially.

Aisling Barrett and Michael Culligan, the report's authors, told the conference of the options available to the State to make it sustainable.

These included raising the retirement age again, cutting benefit levels, tightening eligibility criteria, increasing PRSI contributions and a mix of a number of these measures.

Alan Barrett, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute, agreed that spending on pensions as a percentage of GDP will only rise in the future.

He advocated people working longer in life, dismissing "myths" that older workers are less productive, limited by health issues and reduce job prospects for younger people.

Age Action has also taken issue with what the Government intends to do for older people this term.

Moran said in a statement:

"There is no reference at all to the National Positive Ageing Strategy, which was supposed to be the blueprint for a cross-departmental approach to support growing numbers of older people in the years ahead.

"More than three years since it was published there is no implementation plan for the strategy and we had hoped to see the Government recommit to driving this strategy forward.

"Instead, a Citizens’ Assembly will now be responsible for discussing the ‘future needs... possibilities and opportunities for our ageing population'.

"The Government must clarify the status of the National Positive Ageing Strategy and explain how, or if, it will ensure it is fully implemented".

The subject of improving home help also raised Moran's ire.

"The manifesto promised an additional 2.2 million additional home help hours and while the commitment announced today to increase funding for home help and home care is welcome, it is not clear if it will provide the promised 2.2 million hours".

He concluded:

"This Government has been re-elected on the back of the commitments it made during the General Election, including the pledges made to older people, and we expect to see those promises delivered".