East Londonderry Alliance Representative, Councillor Barney Fitzpatrick, has demanded that the addressing the needs of older people be a priority for the Assembly. He said that achieving a better standard of living for older people is a key priority for the Alliance Party.
The Coleraine Councillor said “That is the main reason why the Alliance Party speedily reintroduced its call for free care for older people at the Assembly meeting on Monday.
“Further to that call for free care we must make sure that older people can maintain the highest degree of independence in their daily lives.
“The proposed rates hikes and unfair water charges, added to the already high cost of living, including oil and electricity bills, will ensure that the real value of pensions will soon be even less.
“The reality is that these increases mean that older people are often forced to make drastic cutbacks on life’s necessities.
“Alliance believes that helping older people must be a priority on the local political agenda. After a lifetime of contributing to society, older people deserve a better deal.”
Cllr. Fitzpatrick said that while other parties had failed to provide the necessary leadership on this issue, Alliance and its representatives have and will continue to work tirelessly to assist this vulnerable section of society in the Assembly.
In addition, Alliance Chairperson, Yvonne Boyle, a senior social worker, stated that she will lobby both Westminster and the Assembly for the provision of better pensions. Cllr. Fitzpatrick stressed that all parties must push the UK Exchequer to re-establish the link between the state pension and average earnings.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said: “This is the fairest means of ensuring long-term confidence in its value. Over the course of recent years, the real value of pensions has fallen considerably. Pensioners now require an immediate substantial boost to their incomes. Alliance calls for the Executive to ensure that the falling rate of pensions is addressed.”
“We also wish to end means-testing for pensioners. Many refuse to take up some benefits because such scrutiny removes an element of their dignity. They have worked hard all their lives and do not want to be made feel guilty for getting the benefits that they are entitled to. We must assist the most vulnerable people in society without having to resort to the degrading procedure of means testing.”
“Alliance aims to:
· Remove means testing for pensions and old age benefits.
· Establish an independent Pension Authority to set future pension levels and prevent the kind of deterioration that has recently occurred.
· Increase the basic pension so that the means testing of the top up minimum income guarantee is no longer needed.
· Extend the entitlement to the basic state pension to all citizens. This measure will guarantee minimum standards of income and provide a basic income for many who have had interrupted work careers such as women, carers, and the long-term disabled.”