Saturday 17 March 2018

Raise retirement age and hike tax to fund elderly care: assembly

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Laura Lynott

A radical workers' tax to pay for elderly care, the abolition of the mandatory retirement age, a minister for older people and full Government accountability are just some of the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly.

The 70 members also called for a statutory footing on older people accessing home care and for a compulsory scheme to supplement the State pension.

The majority of the Assembly recommended a compulsory social insurance payment or earmarked tax for all workers linked to labour market participation - similar to PRSI - to fund long-term social care for older people.

A total of 87pc recommended there should be an increase in public resources for the elderly; 99pc called on the Government to "expedite the current commitment to place home care for older people on a statutory footing"; and 87pc recommended the Government introduces a compulsory pension scheme to supplement the State pension.

Yesterday, Dr Micheal Collins, assistant professor of social policy at UCD, told the assembly it was possible to introduce a Fair Deal-type initiative top-up pension scheme to "claw back" up to €200-a-week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000.

A further 86pc voted against mandatory retirement based on age - meaning an older person could work as long as possible - and 87pc recommended the Government backdates the Homemaker's Scheme to 1973 to allow those who had spent years looking after children, the sick or disabled, in the home to claim a contributory pension.

The assembly voted 100pc that the Government should "urgently prioritise and implement" existing policies and strategies on older people, including for example the National Positive Ageing Strategy published in 2013; the National Carers' Strategy, and the National Dementia Strategy.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action, said: "When given the time to deliberate, the citizens showed the overwhelming consensus for a fair State pension system, the abolition of mandatory retirement and investment in home care."

The votes came a day after members stated they were displeased the Government hadn't implemented strategies and had instead left the issue with citizens to deal with. The recommendations, a combination of State and personal responsibility for the care, pensions, working life and retirement of the elderly, will be brought to the Oireachtas for consideration.

Assembly chair Justice Mary Laffoy said: "I would hope the Oireachtas pays close attention not just to the recommendations, but to the debate that informed them. These deliberations were at times vigorous, at other times challenging, but always interactive, inclusive and conducted in the spirit of collegiality."

Irish Independent

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