'We built the country, now we're treated like fodder'
Majella O'Sullivan meets a widower dealing with the fallout from cuts in a vital allowance who feels the elderly have been treated appallingly
HE worked hard all his life and continues to contribute to his community as a volunteer, but after last Tuesday's Budget Christy Lynch is furious.
Looking over some guidelines from the St Vincent de Paul Society on its reaction to the Budget, Christy discards what the national organisation he works tirelessly for has to say.
As president of the St Vincent de Paul in Tralee, Co Kerry, and a pensioner himself, he knows exactly what he has to say about cuts introduced that include a loss of €9.50 per month in the telephone allowance and an increase of €1 in prescription fees.
He's at the coalface dealing with the fallout of the cuts to pensioners like himself and feels the elderly have been treated appallingly.
Living on a pension of €237 a week, the 75-year-old widower says that has immediately dropped to €231.50 because he has to make up the shortfall and find an extra €5.50 to cover the cost of his landline.
"The telephone allowance was cut by €13 last year and it's €9.50 this year, so that means now that any pensioner who wants to hold on to their phone has to find €5.50 every week to put away and people with the alarm system are going to be punished," Mr Lynch told the Sunday Independent.
"Elderly people are crucified and they took away the death grant as well. In my own opinion, and I'm a pensioner, we're only fodder.
"If you're over a certain age, their thinking is the average pensioner will live for about 10 years so keep on cutting, they'll be gone anyway. If one dies tonight, it will save them €230.
"I was never so mad with them. They're hoping we'll just die because it's all about saving money and it's just scandalous.
"Saying they haven't
touched the pension is bulls**t. The pensioner has to find that extra money to cover the cut in the telephone allowance. Where do they think that's going to come from – only from their payment.
"We have people coming in here and they're distraught. We've had three new cases this morning and I can tell you it's unbelievable and how many of those TDs we elected with their big fat salaries and their expenses and allowances have gone around to their constituents since the general election to know how they're living.
"Are they living in the real world? We have terrible cases coming into us and people really don't realise how bad it is on the ground."
Apart from the cut in the telephone allowance, Mr Lynch feels what's even more damaging is the threat to an old person's security at the thought of losing their landline that's connected to their personal security alarm because they can't afford it anymore.
He fears there'll be an increase in burglaries because criminals will know some elderly people have had to do without their landlines, which makes their panic buttons obsolete. He has just applied for the panic button because he's living on his own, following the death of his wife three years ago.
His phone is also vital to stay in touch with his family scattered around the world. He says not even the money pensioners put by to cover the cost of a funeral is safe as this is now subject to 41 per cent Dirt tax.
"We built the country but now we're being treated like fodder. I was working 61 years, I reared my family and paid my dues.
"It's very annoying because you work all your life, doing the best you can and then you get a government that just walks all over you," he said.
"I've no faith in anybody that comes out and makes a statement and then goes back on it and you can't be safe from a liar."
In the same town, Elizabeth Roche is the manager of services with Kingdom Care, a non-profit organisation that works with carers and the elderly.
She says in her 20 years working in this sector she's constantly shocked and horrified by the situations she encounters.
"We've been approached by undertakers looking for outfits to dress the dead and now the grant to help people meet the cost of funerals has been taken as well, a miserly €850.
"Old people are staying in bed longer just to keep warm. Look at any shopping centres and they're full of old people because it's a warm place to be," she said.
Ms Roche said pharmacists are telling her some of their elderly clients are not filling their prescriptions because they cannot afford to.
"We are going into people's homes where there is no evidence of food in the house and these cuts are especially discriminatory to single people. It costs as much to cook a meal for one person as it does for three but it's coming out of one income.
"It's like we're living in a parallel universe and there just seems to be such a lack of empathy for older people," she said.