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Senior citizens body angry as funds cut

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

THERE WERE angry responses from many of the delegates at the Senior Citizens Parliament’s annual conference yesterday on hearing that its funding from the Department of Health and Children has been withdrawn from the end of 2007.

The department has funded the group, which represents over 100,000 older people, since its inception.

The parliament’s president Sylvia Meehan said the loss was “an ominous sign”.

The new chief executive Mairéad Hayes said she would challenge this loss of funding. However, the organisation has received some additional funding from
Atlantic Philanthropies, which will help it to continue.
Despite this concern there was lively discussion among about 200 delegates at the gathering on the provision of adequate pensions and healthcare for older people.

“The Government spends about as much on the private pension system as the contributory and State pensions combined,” Dr Gerard Hughes, visiting professor at Trinity College Dublin, told the conference

Dr Hughes was speaking to the parliament as it prepares to submit its reaction to the Government’s Green Paper on pensions.

The paper calls for a reform of the pensions system partly because of the projected aging population.

About 60 per cent of tax relief on private pensions is for people earning EUR 100,000 or more, Mr Hughes explained, saying that this hid an unequal distribution of money spent on pensions. Something radical like the universal pension proposed by the Senior Citizens Parliament was needed, he said.

The parliament passed a motion calling on the Government to notify Irish pensioners who worked in the UK for even a year that they may be entitled to a pension.

A survey of some Dublin senior citizens who had worked in the UK found that 20 per cent of them did not know about their entitlement to a UK pension.

The parliament also said the Irish State pension should be fixed at 50 per cent of average industrial earnings.

The “fair deal” scheme for financing nursing home care was the cause of much concern for parliament members.

They were opposed to the fair deal scheme as it eliminated the principle of free care for those who needed it.

“Senior citizens in long-term care are paying from EUR 600 to EUR 1000 a week,” said chairman of the parliament’s health sub-committee, Anthony Gilligan.

This issue was very stressful for older people when combined with concerns over quality of care and inspections in nursing homes, he added.

A call for the extension of breast cancer screening for women over the age of 64 will be one of the motions before the parliament when it meets again today.

“I feel that 64 is very young nowadays to stop breast screening. It is already 70 in the UK and may be extended to 74 there,” explained Ena O’Mahony of the Irish Nurses Organisation retired section.

The motion also calls for the breast screening programme to be rolled out across the country.

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Irish Senior Citizens' Parliament