Author: Age NI
Published on 20 October 2010 05:30 PM
Age NI welcomes the Chancellor’s decision today to protect the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payments. However, the charity believes that the reduction in NI expenditure means that serious challenges lie ahead for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Anne O’Reilly, Age NI Chief Executive commented, ‘Today’s announcement provides some protection of vital benefits for older people allowing our politicians the time to develop a progressive strategy for the future which removes the barriers that prevent the participation of older people in NI society. Age NI acknowledges the difficulties faced by the Assembly in the coming weeks, but our political leaders are now faced with making the correct hard choices to ensure protection and opportunities for older people today, and in generations to come. Finally, we are seeing an acknowledgement within the Chancellor’s statement of the complexities of our ageing society and the breadth of policies required to address this reality. This must be seen as a welcome development and it is equally imperative that the Executive response to a tighter spending framework acknowledges, prioritises and delivers the progressive policies required for an ageing society.’
Anne continued, ‘Two thirds of people here in receipt of Winter Fuel Payment live below the relative poverty line. We have the highest levels of older people living in poverty in the UK, and the number of winter deaths here has more than doubled since the launch of the Fuel Poverty Strategy in 2004. The evidence is staggering. The Executive must understand that ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ is not an adequate response and acknowledge that our society is ageing and that reductions in vital services will store up more expensive problems in the long term. Our Ministers must invest now to save in key areas so that the challenges of ageing become valuable opportunities.’