Health and transport are major concerns for pensioners

The Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament manifesto highlights the key issues older people in Northern Ireland want to see the Assembly address in its next Programme for Government.

The Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament manifesto has highlighted the immediate concerns Northern Ireland’s older people have about their future mobility, heating and health care provisions.

The manifesto lists six action areas that pensioners want to see the next government tackle in the next Programme for Government. Opening the manifesto are calls to protect the Smartpass and free prescriptions for older people. Substantial reductions in operation waiting times and better home care packages also feature as demands as do schemes to tackle fuel poverty and the call to improve the energy efficiency of new and existing homes. The manifesto concludes by calling for improved conviction rates and more severe sentencing for crimes against older people and an end to age discrimination.

In Northern Ireland 90 per cent of older people are against the introduction of a means-tested Smartpass as free travel for all pensioners provides older people with the opportunity to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. The manifesto also states that older people have lost confidence in the process of reform within health and social care and notes that 76 per cent of pensioners want to see an increase in the time allocated for domiciliary care.

Since the launch of the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament in 2011 there have been over 3,000 extra winter deaths and 90 per cent of these fatalities have been over the age of 65. In Northern Ireland almost 57 per cent of older households are in fuel poverty. Keeping warm in winter has always been a big concern for pensioners and the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament calls for a ‘Whole House Solution’ plan to tackle fuel poverty targeting new developments and fuel poor households on a phased basis.

Since 2012 crimes against older people have increased by 3 per cent. There are 70,000 crimes committed against older people in Northern Ireland each year and only 12 per cent of these crimes are solved. There is a belief among pensioners that criminals targeting older people are given a ‘slap on the wrist’ when being sentenced for these crimes. As such the manifesto calls on action on the low conviction rates and for tougher sentences for those convicted of crimes against older people.

Speaking following the publication of the manifesto, the Chair of the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament Michael Monaghan stressed the importance of the ‘grey vote’ and urged politicians to implement their demands.

“The last Assembly election saw two out of three older people voting, compared to a turnout of just over half for the population as a whole. If our local political parties are to learn anything from these examples, it’s this – ignore the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament manifesto at your peril,” said Monaghan.

“Since 2011, the Pensioners Parliament has engaged with thousands of older people across Northern Ireland, and it’s clear there are many bread and butter issues that older people believe the Assembly could address better. There are also real fears that, in times of stretched budgets, older people could fall victim to short-sighted policies that will have a negative impact on their quality of life for years to come.”

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