Monday 16 October 2017

OAPs big winners with hikes in pension, fuel grant

Leinster House (Stock picture)
Leinster House (Stock picture)

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Welfare payments, including the dole and the old-age pension, will be increased across the board by €5. Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has also secured agreement for increases to the fuel and telephone allowance – but these hikes will not come into effect until the latter months of 2018.

The Christmas bonus is to be retained in a move that benefits thousands of welfare recipients.

The decision to increase welfare payments across the board is in line with Ms Doherty’s pledge that “nobody will be left behind”.

Other groups, such as lone parents, the disabled, the carers and the blind are due to enjoy their increases from March or April.

Some 1.3 million medical cards are to also benefit from a 50c reduction in prescription charges as a result of a deal brokered by Health Minister Simon Harris.

Prescription charges were reduced from €2.50 to €2 for the over 70s last year – with the same cut being brought in for families and those under 70.

Mr Harris has secured an increase in his overall budget – with a major focus on tackling hospital waiting lists.

It’s understood a €55m boost will be provided to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), which has been tasked with implementing measures to tackling long waiting lists and overcrowding.

The restoration of the NTPF was a key demand of Fianna Fáil in return for the party agreeing to prop up Fine Gael.

There will also be substantial  investment in home help and a dedicated fund to assist those affected by dementia.

Funding for scoliosis – a medical condition that affects the spine – will also be included.

But one of the headline items out of health today relates to the State’s Nursing Home Support programme, known as ‘Fair Deal’.

As first revealed by the Irish Independent, the Government will introduce a three-year cap on contributions from farms and businesses. This will dramatically reduce the financial burden facing elderly people and their loved ones.

Under the current scheme, families pay a 7.5pc annual contribution on their principal residence for a maximum of three years.

However, the three-year cap does not apply to farmland or business premises – meaning the financial burden facing farmers and business owners is much greater. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is due to announce the extension of the cap to farm and business assets in his speech today.

Aside from the changes to ‘Fair Deal’, Older People Minister Jim Daly has also secured  extra money and a new centralised hub for mental health services, as well as a new fund for community and voluntary groups that specialise in helping the elderly. And tax incentives for employers who hire older workers will also be announced, according to Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.

Irish Independent

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