Sunday 17 December 2017

600,000 people expect €5 weekly pension increase, TDs warned

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TDs have been warned that 600,000 older people will now expect a €5-a-week increase in the State pension.

Naomi Feely of Age Action pointed out that political parties promised a minimum of a €25 increase in the pension over the next five years.

"Budget 2017 is the first opportunity to make clear to almost 600,000 people over the age of 65 that those commitments will be honoured," she said.

While the figure hasn't been confirmed, an increase to the pension is likely to feature in the Budget, with Fine Gael TDs also seeing it as a popular measure if it can be funded.

Hikes in the fuel allowance and the living alone allowance are also expected to be introduced in Budget 2017, in order to win over the "grey vote".

Ms Feely presented her organisation's pre-Budget submission to the Oireachtas Social Protection Committee.

She said that ultimately the pension should be 35pc of average weekly earnings - meaning a rise from €233 to €248.

She told TDs that her organisation wanted to see progress towards this with minister Leo Varadkar delivering a €5-a-week increase in the State pension in Budget 2017, which she costed at €130m.

Age Action wants the restoration of the final 25pc of the Christmas Bonus as a doubleweek payment this year for all social welfare recipients. She put the cost of this at €67m.

It is also seeking an extension of the fuel allowance scheme by four weeks at a cost of €35m. Ms Feely pointed out that it was cut by six weeks, but "winter didn't get any shorter".

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O'Dea noted that while the pension hadn't been cut in recent years, it had effectively been reduced by the cuts to other allowances.

He previously publicly announced he wanted to see a €5-a-week increase in the pension this year.

Caroline Fahey of St Vincent de Paul also briefed TDs, saying it wanted any increase in child benefit to be targeted at children aged 12 and over. She said this would be justified in recognition of the high costs faced by families with older children.

It also wants lone parents in employment with children aged between seven and 14 to receive the Jobseekers Transition payment and Family Income Supplement if they qualify.

Irish Independent

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