Data published by the Central Statistics Office indicate that the current increases in the cost of living are disproportionately impacting older households, with those aged 65+ experiencing an increase in inflation of 7.8 per cent in the year to March 2023, compared to 7.7 per cent for the general population, and a five-year increase of 17.8 per cent between March 2018 and March 2023, compared to 16.9 per cent generally (CSO, 2023). The number of people aged 65+ living below the poverty line in 2022 increased by 55,000 compared to the previous year, and the number of people aged 65+ accessing emergency homeless accommodation in April 2023 (171) represents an increase of one third since the introduction of Housing for All in September 2021.
Social Justice Ireland has previously proposed a single-rate universal state social welfare pension at the rate of the State Pension (Contributory). The significant additional expenditure required could be funded through reform of Ireland’s system of pension-related tax reliefs, and through a moderate increase in Employer PRSI, as detailed in our report on the Universal Pension from March 2018. This would involve standard-rating the tax break on all private pension contributions. We further call on Government to increase the State Contributory and Non-Contributory Pensions by €25 per week and to univeralise the payment, starting in January 2024 at a cost of €1.5 billion in Budget 2024.
According to Eurostat, 13.1 per cent of Ireland’s population aged 65+ are living in a dwelling with a leaking roof, damp walls, floors or foundation, or rot in window frames or floor, the highest rate since 2015, and that’s before accounting for illness or disability which requires further home adaptations. That equates to more than 101,600 older people. The same dataset indicates that more than 3,000 older people do not have an indoor flushing toilet for the sole use of their household. The expenditure in respect of the Housing Aid for Older People plummeted from €30.8m in 2010 to just €12.8m in 2020, while Housing Aid for People with a Disability reduced from €39.8m to €26.6m in the same period. While Social Justice Ireland welcomed the increased funding of €83m for housing adaptations this year, the cuts to Housing Aid for Older People and Housing Aid for People with a Disability must be restored in full and take account of our increasing aging population, starting with an additional allocation of €85m in Budget 2024.
A recent report from ALONE and Threshold suggest that one quarter of older people expect to continue renting into older age, with 42 per cent of participants in the study experiencing high stress caused by the precarity of their housing situation. In 2018, Government committed to a Policy Statement on Housing Options for
Our Ageing Population, however the Final Report of the Implementation Group was published in June 2022 with many key actions unresolved. As part of the social housing Budget, Government must make provision for age-appropriate housing, to universal design standards, in Budget 2024.
The statutory right to home care, committed by Government to be set out in legislation by early 2021, is yet to be published. Unmet need for homecare results in delayed discharges at acute level, increasing the risk of infection and dependency on hospital and long-term care.
The average number of hours provided by the HSE per older home care recipient for the first nine months of 2022 was 7.3 hours per week. The 2022 Public Services Performance Report indicates that just 88 per cent of the targeted home care support hours, and 34 per cent of intensive Home Care Packages, were achieved in 2022. The targeted number of people in receipt of home care was exceeded in 2022, meaning limited resources were being stretched even further. Budget 2024 must include an allocation of €96.4m for additional home care supports and address the most current waiting lists.
The Community and Voluntary sector provide a range of key supports for older people, from befriending and social inclusion supports, to home care and assistive technologies. These supports are particularly important for those older people living with dementia and their families. A report by TASC and the Wheel detailed increasing staff turnover rates, waiting lists and closures of some services due to inadequate funding. We therefore call on Government to increase funding in this area by €50 million in Budget 2024.
Some 3.3 per cent of all people aged over 65 reside in nursing home care funded by the Nursing Home Support Scheme according to the Public Services Performance Report 2022. This amounts to 22,769, exceeding the target of 22,412 for the year. While the health focus should be on enabling people to age at home, for those for whom nursing home care is appropriate, there must be adequate provision for nursing home care across the country. Social Justice Ireland calls on Government to provide an additional 500 nursing home places in Budget 2024, at a cost of €27.3m.
The number of reports of safeguarding concerns increased by 18 per cent in 2022. Of the 13,700 safeguarding reports made to the HSE Safeguarding Teams, 31 per cent were made by people aged 65+, while the number of complaints raised by people aged 80+ increased by 32 per cent on 2021. Reports of elder abuse exceeded 4,000 for the first time, and the reporting rate of adults aged 65+ was almost twice that of those aged 18-64. The most prevalent types of abuse reported for this older people were psychological, physical and financial. Budget 2024 should contain an additional €3 million to establish an independent safeguarding authority.
Budget Choices 2024 is available to download here.