FINE GAEL MANIFESTO 2016 – OLDER PEOPLE
Fine Gael is committed to making our older years better years, and ensuring Ireland is a supportive country to grow old in. Over the next 30 years the number of people aged over 65 will double.
Indeed, as we are living longer, the number of us living to be over 80 is set to quadruple. It makes it all the more important that we plan, design and deliver services appropriately, in order to keep people living independently in their homes. To do this, we will invest in and streamline services and supports so that older people have better quality services and better access
to such services.
Older Years, Better Years
Fine Gael has a plan to keep the recovery going in a way that will generate the resources to invest in and improve the living standards and quality of life of our older generation. Budget 2016 provided targeted supports for older people, through increases in the weekly State pension, the Christmas bonus and the fuel allowance and provided additional funding for the Free Travel scheme, to ensure its sustainability.
State Pension: We will increase both the contributory and non-contributory State pensions by at least €25 per week by 2021 (a €5 increase every year). Living Alone Allowance: We will increase the State pension for those who qualify for the living alone allowance by at least €30 per week by 2021 (a €6 increase every year).
Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT): We will increase the Group A tax-free thresholds (including all gifts and inheritances from parents to their children) to €500,000, from €280,000 at present. We will ensure that parents can continue to support – tax-free – their children through education.
Significantly Reducing the Maximum Annual Cost of Medicines: We will significantly reduce the level of co-payment which families/individuals have to pay for medicines under the Drug Payment Scheme. Currently a family/individual has to pay a maximum of €1,728 per year and this will be reduced to €950, helping families/individuals with significant ongoing medical bills. Currently a family or individual with a medical card has to pay up to €25 a month in prescription charges, this cap will also be reduced to a maximum of €17.50 a month.
Streamlining Access to Services: Fine Gael will consolidate all means testing under a single national body so that people will only apply once for services or entitlements across all government agencies.
Enhanced Primary Care
As part of our Long Term Economic Plan to keep the recovery going we are committed to significantly increasing investment in primary care, which will include additional doctors, nurses, and therapists, keeping care in the community.
Primary Care Centres and GP access: We have committed funding for at least 80 additional primary care centres. To achieve our goal of providing more care in the community we must invest in more GP training places. We will increase the number of GP
training places by 100 over the next five years to 259 places annually. Subject to negotiations, we will fund GPs to expand to services like minor surgery and cardiac monitoring. We will ensure GPs have access to X-ray, ultrasound and other investigations for their patients.
Chronic Disease Management: We will expand chronic disease management in general practice, taking into account advice from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP). Over 63,000 patients have signed up for the diabetes cycle of care in general practice, which was initiated in 2015. In addition to diabetes, which is already covered, we will seek to cover chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, so that patients can keep their care in their community, close to home.
Multi-Disciplinary Teams: To underpin the expansion of services we will increase the number of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, mental health professionals, public health and community nurses, advanced nurse practitioners, nurse/midwife specialists and social workers in our primary care centres.
Dementia Care: Fine Gael published the first ever National Dementia Strategy to plan for the future care needs of people, provide access to timely diagnosis, and increase awareness and care supports at local and national level for families. Fine Gael will fully
implement this strategy.
Community Pharmacists: We will expand the role of community pharmacists, beyond dispensing prescriptions, to managing the health of their patients, within 2 years. This may include a minor ailments scheme, a new medicines and medication review service, vaccines, warfarin clinics, smoking cessation and chronic disease management. We will
extend a limited authority to pharmacists to prescribe medicines.
Promoting Independent and Active Living
Fine Gael is committed to ensuring that people continue to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. In order to meet that goal, we need to decisively shift care to the community and invest in home and community supports, thereby ensuring quality care for people in their older years.
Services for Older People in the Community: We will commit significant resources to older peoples’ services over the next 5 years. This will include 2.2 million additional hours for home help, bringing it to 12.6 million hours annually, and additional home care packages, keeping older people in their homes.
Uniformity of Home Care Services: We know that home help and home care provision across the country ranges from excellent to irregular. Fine Gael will put a new structure in place that will provide a consistent, high-quality level of home care to those who need it.
New Technologies for Community and Homecare:
Fine Gael will build on the success of the Health Innovation Hub by developing new technologies and solutions that help people remain independent in their home.
Housing Adaptation Scheme: Keeping people independent in their own home is a priority for Fine Gael and the Housing Adaptation grants provided to local authorities are essential to meeting this goal. Budget 2016 increased this scheme by 10% to €56m,
which will see over 8,500 households benefit from the scheme. We will increase this scheme by a further 20% to €66m by 2021.
Fair Deal: We will fund additional beds for the Nursing Home Support Scheme to keep the Fair Deal scheme at approximately 4 weeks and ensure support for those unable to remain at home.
New Residential Care Options: We will mandate the Strategic Investment Fund to offer loan finance to provide stimulus to private nursing home investment and assisted living arrangements so that the needs and preferences of a more diverse older population
can be met.
Senior Alert Scheme: The Senior Alert Scheme offers reassurance and support to older people. We will double the funding of this scheme to provide additional grants to the elderly. The operation of this scheme should be reviewed annually to ensure its effectiveness.
Elder Abuse: The last review of Irish legislation relating to elder abuse took place in 2009. Fine Gael will increase the awareness of this serious issue and will review legislative options again, given the increase in referrals and our ageing population. In 2014, there were 2,592 referrals made to the HSE Elder Abuse Service, with psychological and financial abuse the most frequently reported.
Fuel Poverty: Fine Gael will protect and maintain the Warmer Home Scheme to retrofit low-income housing for greater energy efficiency. We believe enhanced insulation of homes is the most effective way of keeping the elderly comfortable in their homes. We
will produce a strategy to address energy poverty, with a specific focus on conservation, pricing and income support, with a targeted approach and a time frame for delivery. We will also target energy costs, with a view to pressurising the energy companies and the regulator to provide cheaper energy in the coming years in order to tackle fuel poverty.
Health Insurance: We will ensure the maintenance of a stable health insurance market which continues to monitor and introduce, where necessary, affordability measures. Successful measures to date include a reduction in the community rating levy, introduction of Lifetime Community Rating and a reduction in the Health Insurance Authority funding levy.
Family carers are the backbone of care provision in this country. Most of us will be carers – or cared for – at some point in our lives. And it is the family carer who will continue to play a key role in supporting family members to live independent lives.
National Carer’s Strategy: Fine Gael published the first ever National Carers Strategy and is committed to implementing it in full.
Income Support for Carers: We will increase Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit by at least €20 per week by 2021 (a €4 increase every year).
Care Plans: We will ensure there is greater involvement of family carers in the preparation of care plans and provision of care, together with more accessible training and respite to facilitate full support.
A Stronger Voice for Older People Citizens’ Assembly: Over the last 5 years, several government strategies have been published and are being implemented, including the Positive Ageing Strategy, National Smart Ageing Strategy, National Dementia Strategy and National Carers Strategy. Each seeks to improve the lives of our elders and their families and support people to age with confidence, security and dignity in their own homes and communities. In an age when more and more people will be in retirement, we need to be aware of, and cater for, an increasingly diverse elderly population. Fine Gael will establish a Citizens’ Assembly, which will, amongst other issues, discuss and plan the future needs into one integrated approach for implementation.
Age Friendly Ireland and Older People’s Councils:
Fine Gael is committed to the success of Age Friendly Ireland and its programmes. Fine Gael also supports the establishment of Older People’s Councils in every local authority, which will include older people from the area and also local service providers.
Active Retirement National Fund: A new fund of €5m annually, to be administered by Pobal, will support community initiatives for retired and older people, led by retired and older people. People can choose to support their peers through home care support,
courses, reducing social isolation and more active citizenship.