Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Fein sets out a Charter for Senior Citizens Rights

20 May, 2007

Dublin MEP and and Sinn Féin general election candidate for Dublin central, Mary Lou McDonald, has called for an Ombudsman for Older people. Ms. McDonald also said that if it was in Government after the general election, Sinn Féin would seek to abolish the means test for carers and substantially increase the Carers Allowance. The Sinn Féin Chairperson was speaking at a press conference where she outlined Sinn Féin's 'Charter for Senior Citizens'.

Mary Lou McDonald said:

"It is vital that a national strategy for older people is brought forward to put the rights of senior citizens at the heart of decision-making and create a mechanism for democratic accountability. Sinn Féin proposes an an all-Ireland strategy for older people, following consultation and direct involvement of older people themselves and the establishment of an Ombudsman for Older People.

"Decent accommodation and safety in the community are key issues for older people. Increasingly, sheltered accommodation and housing complexes for senior citizens are clustered away from the wider community, creating isolation and difficulties in full participation in the community. This isolation, especially in rural areas, also helps foster a sense of vulnerability. We need to a better mix in new build public housing developments. The design of new public housing should embrace the concept of life-long living. Older people should be enabled to continue living in their own home where this is their preference.

"Sinn Féin has consistently called for the replacement of old bed-sit style accommodation with one bed apartments for older people and we have had some success in this regard with Dublin City Council agreeing that this will be the norm for new build units from now on.

"We need to see proper security and upkeep of local authority housing complexes for older people and 'Good Community Agreements' involving both public and private tenants and property owners, to enhance community input, participation and ownership of local strategies to prevent and tackle criminal and anti-social behaviour.

"In Government Sinn Féin would seek to enhance social inclusion by ensuring easier access to the Government subsidised Rural Transport Initiative, which is vital for the survival and well being of people in rural communities. We would also introduce a voucher scheme to allow older people entitled to free public transport to avail of private transport where there is no adequate public transport system.

"While Sinn Féin welcomes the improvement in senior citizens incomes, much more needs to be done. One in four older people still remain at risk of poverty. We have the second highest seasonal variation in mortality in Europe, with suggestions that fuel poverty could be a factor in as many as 2,000 winter deaths each year.

"In Government Sinn Féin would seek to link old age pensioners' social insurance contributions to inflation to ensure a sufficient standard of living and establish retrospective pension credits for those who spent their working lives caring for others.

"We would double the Living Alone Allowance and increase the weekly fuel allowance payment to €25, or the equivalent in an allowance for units of electricity and heating fuel and extend the fuel allowance from the beginning of September to the end of April - for 34 weeks instead of the current 29 weeks.

"The next Government needs to properly plan for enhanced provision of essential public nursing home beds, community care facilities and home care, to take pressure off A&Es and ensure care delivery in the most appropriate setting.

"The needs of carers must be addressed and funding must be made available for appropriate support, including day care provision, respite care and domestic aids. Carers must be recognised for the work that they do. Their work saves the State incalculable amounts of money.

"In Government Sinn Féin would abolish the means test for full-time carers, substantially increase the Carer's Allowance, respite care and support services and provide for needs assessment and training of carers. We would seek the modification of the social welfare system to give recognition for benefits to those who have worked in the home, including the introduction of a non-means tested pension supplemented by a second tier pension involving 'carers credits' in lieu of social insurance contributions. We want to see pension justice for women, involving retrospective pension credits for women who have spent their working life caring for others."ENDS

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