By Kathleen Lynch, Minister for Equality, Disability, Mental Health and Older People
Older people make a huge and valuable contribution to our local communities. That is why it’s vital we strive to meet their home support and continuing care needs so we can enable pensioners to live in comfort in the community for as long as possible.
At a time when the number of people over the age of 65 is increasing by 20,000 a year, with the over-eighties population growing by some four per cent annually, we need now more than ever to be planning for their futures and supporting their needs.
As a Labour Minister with responsibility for the elderly, I know fully the sacrifices made by thousands of pensioners across Galway over the last few years as the Government steered this country back from the brink.
Now, with the economy improving, I want to ensure every one of them benefits as the recovery emerges. Put simply, they deserve no less.
In Budget 2015, the Labour Party worked hard to win supports for pensioners and hard-pressed families.
I am pleased that, for example, the partial restoration of the Christmas bonus means that in Galway, some 25,739 pensioners will now have extra money in their pockets in the run-up to the holidays.
Over 1.16 million Irish people will benefit from this payment overall, including carers, long-term unemployed and those in receipt of one-parent family payment, blind pension and widow’s pension.
Often in the immediate aftermath of a Budget, details about measures like the Christmas bonus can get lost in the noise as people digest the big-ticket items.
Therefore, in a bid to ensure that pensioners are fully aware of the supports introduced in the Budget to help them, I have launched a grassroots information campaign to advise them on changes that have been made to some of their entitlements – changes that will have a tangible, positive effect on their everyday lives.
It will run for a number of weeks and is being co-ordinated by Tánaiste Joan Burton and Labour leader, who has for four consecutive Budgets protected the State pension and the free travel allowance for those aged over 66.
Working with our colleagues in Galway, Deputy Derek Nolan and Senator Lorraine Higgins, the campaign aims to target 80,000 pensioners nationwide through a series of information leaflets, local radio interviews and social media activity. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Information is power.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.