Pensioners get €3, but Burton says it’s not a buy-off
PENSIONERS are to get a €3-a- week increase in their weekly payment, whereas lone parents and the unemployed will not see any improvement in their basic social welfare rates.
The increase in the pension will be seen as a major victory for Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton ahead of the election.
But asked if this was an attempt to buy votes - given research has repeatedly shown old people fared better than most during the recession - she said the need to prioritise pensioners and carers had been constantly stressed to her at meetings with different groups.
"Pensioners are the absolute rock on which our society is built," she said.
Pensioners had not seen any increase in their pension since 2009, and many had supported their adult children and families through very difficult times, she said.
"They deserve to see their income in retirement increase now that we have some room to do so," she said.
The fuel allowance is to be increased to €22.50 from €20 per week, which will also benefit older people.
The respite care grant paid to carers is being increased by €325 a year to €1,700.
Ms Burton said it was also being renamed the carer's support grant to give people more flexibility in how they spent it as research had shown a range of uses.
"The indications are it's used for a wide variety of spending, it's used both for the person caring, but also in support of the person being cared for."
It will also be paid out in two tranches, in April and September, instead of one lump sum in June to help people manage it better.
Age Action welcomed the hike in State Pension and increases in other income supports. But the organisation also highlighted the lack of progress on home supports and the failure to cut prescription charges.
It also warned the Government against "buying votes".
Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications, said: "The first State Pension increase in seven years, welcome increases in the Christmas Bonus and the Fuel Allowance, will make a real difference to older people across the country.
"But more needs to be done. Older people are still facing real hardship. We're disappointed not to have heard anything so far about restoring the Telephone Allowance and particularly disappointed to have heard nothing yet on prescription charges."
Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said: "Ireland remains an expensive place to grow older, for example, food costs in Ireland are 15.8pc more expensive than the EU average. The levels of fuel poverty in Ireland remain unacceptably high despite the fact that keeping warm during winter is of vital significance for older people."
And despite the increase in the pension, Peter Kavanagh of Active Retirement Ireland said: "As a vote-buying exercise, this Budget falls short and older people are in danger of being left behind as the economy recovers."
He said: "Older people have taken cuts that amount to about €13 per week over successive Budgets."