Fairer care and local transport key issues for older voters

Older & Bolder highlighted five key issues, our HIGH FIVE, for older people in General Election 2011: fairer care, secure pension, local transport, my involvement, and a national plan on ageing.

Our summary of the political parties' proposals in relation to those key issues is set out below. In terms of the implementation of any proposals by a new Government, the devil will be in the detail. Older & Bolder has identified some of the details that will, we believe, need to be tracked during and after the formation of the next Government. By Patricia Conboy

Fairer Care

The first issue is Fairer Care. Older & Bolder favours a universal, single tier system of health and social care with access for everyone on the basis of need; and financial contribution, through taxation or social insurance, on the basis of ability to pay.

Fianna Fáil will maintain the existing two tier system of health and social care. Fine Gael and Labour each have plans to introduce a single tier system of health care, financed through social insurance. Fine Gael's Universal Health Insurance (UHI) model envisages multiple private providers of insurance and plans free GP access for all by by 2016. Labour's UHI model envisages a single public provider of insurance with free GP access for all immediately. Sinn Féin envisages a single tier system financed through taxation. The Green Party will initiate a public debate on the introduction of a single tier system of care; but will immediately provide free access to GPs for everyone.

Tracking Fairer Care

Points to monitor include :

  • The financial terms on which older people will access social care e.g. Home Help, Home Care Packages and supports to assist independent living at home (as opposed to health care e.g. GP visits, hospital procedures).
  • The focus of likely cuts in the health services. Fianna Fáil envisages 'savings' of €680 million in healthcare by 2014 and Fine Gael envisages 'savings' of €65 million from community care initiatives by 2014.
  • The baseline from which reforms in primary care and extension in community care will take place. All of the political parties are proposing reform and/or extension of community care and step-down (short-term convalescent care) facilities. We do not have an accurate and complete picture of the existing level of primary, community and continuing care services, including services for older people. Without a baseline, we cannot accurately measure current gaps and progress over the next five years. Such a baseline could be accomplished through HealthStat, the HSE performance information system.

Secure Pension

Older & Bolder has sought a firm commitment to a fair and secure pension system for all. Detailed responses from five political parties are posted on our website, www.olderandbolder.ie

Regarding the State Pension, Fianna Fáil has said that it will maintain the value of the State Pension at 35 % of average earnings. Fine Gael and the Green Party have said that they will not cut the State Pension. Labour and Sinn Féin have said that they will protect State Pension and associated benefits (e.g. Household Benefits Package).

Tracking Secure Pensions

Key point to monitor :

  • The effects of the Universal Social Charge, changes to tax bands and tax exemption limits for older people on low, fixed incomes, allied with rising costs of private health insurance, cost of living and increased levels of co-payment for basic services.

Local Transport

All the political parties express support for the Rural Transport Programme. Both Sinn Féin and the Green Party highlight investment in public transport as a priority. Fine Gael states that it will integrate non-emergency HSE transport with the Rural Transport Programme. Labour states that it will make integrated rural transport a priority for the National Transport Authority. The Green Party states that it will streamline funding from the HSE and government departments to integrate rural bus services and avoid duplication.

Tracking Local Transport

Key point to monitor :

  • The implementation of a meaningful plan, involving the key stakeholders and within a defined time-frame, for integrating public transport initiatives at local and national levels. Co-ordination is a challenge in current circumstances with at least two Government departments involved, as well as the HSE, the National Transport Authority and many community groups, through the Rural Transport Programme; and with several transport/mobility support schemes in operation separately from each other.

My Involvement

All of the parties state that they are committed to older people's participation in all aspects of life. The Labour Party presents specific proposals for a community time bank based on voluntary contribution and exchange by people of all ages; a national competition to identify the most age friendly community in Ireland; and the establishment of older people's councils by local authorities.

Tracking My Involvement

Key point to monitor :

  • The meaningful involvement of older people in consultative and decision-making processes on policies and services that directly affect their lives e.g. development of national criteria for access to social care; review of the Universal Social Charge; streamlining of local and national transport services.

National Plan On Ageing

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Green Party, Labour and Sinn Féin have each committed to delivery of the long overdue National Positive Ageing Strategy.

Tracking National Plan On Ageing

Key points to monitor :

  • Will the National Positive Ageing Strategy be championed by a Minister for Older People and underpinned by real resources and clear targets?
  • Will the National Positive Ageing Strategy be completed within a defined time-frame? (There was a commitment in the 2007 Programme for Government and progress since then has been painfully slow).