Pensioners have said the €260 annual boost in their state pension will make life easier for them.
Almost 600,000 people age 66 and over will now see a €5 increase in their weekly pension payment, thanks to a welfare package secured by Fine Gael in Budget 2017 which comes into effect tomorrow (Friday, March 10th).
Meeting with friends in Sligo this week, retired nurse Mary Coyne, 72, from Sligo town said Fine Gael is ensuring the elderly benefit from the economic upturn.
“I’m very pleased with the increase, we’re going in the right direction and the Minister is trying to accommodate every sector in society that needs some assistance.
“In my house there’s myself and my husband so we’ll get nearly €500 a year with this extra €5.
“For me, it will pay my heating, which is essential when you’re getting more mature in years. So it takes pressure off,” Ms Coyne said.
Michael Gurrie, 73, from Ballysadare in Sligo said he was delighted to receive the €260.
“I think it will be a great help to us all. It is good to see the way the country has come out of this terrible recession and that we are now benefitting from it,” Mr Gurrie said.
Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said the €5 a week pension increase comes into effect this week for around 600,000 people.
“Next week around 800,000 other people will receive their first increase since 2009 of up to €5 a week, including people with disabilities, lone parents, carers, jobseekers, people on illness benefit and other benefits.
“These increases are modest but significant and demonstrate how managing the economy prudently and the finances well can give us the resources we need to improve living standards for everyone,” Mr Varadkar said.
Iggy Hegarty, 69, from Castledargan in Sligo said the money provides an extra source of support for pensioners.
“It’s happiness for myself and my wife. Outside of financial pressure it’s ease of mind for myself and my wife.
“If you don’t have ease of mind at our age, you’re looking for illness.
“It’s magnificent to see a rise of €260 per annum at a stage when our population is getting larger,” he said.
Tomorrow’s increase is part of the €301 million Budget 2017 welfare package which brought the total welfare spend by the Department of Social Protection in 2017 to €19.854 billion.
The pension boost is also part of a wider suite of measures introduced by Fine Gael to make life easier for elderly members of society.
Last month the prescription charge for almost 400,000 people over 70 with medical cards was reduced from €2.50 to €2. Non-medical card holders now have their prescription capped at €20 per month.
Since 2015 everyone aged 70 and over is eligible for free GP care regardless of income.
Seamus McGoldrick, 68, from Strandhill in Sligo said: “There’s a lot more available to us now. And as things get better it will continue to improve.
“The prescription cap will be a help, there’s the free GP which is just around the corner [for me], the flu jab and all those things are free and they all count.”
Christina Gallagher, 71, from Drumcliffe in Sligo said: “I think the free GP care is wonderful, if you’re sick you can ring the doctor and make an appointment straight away instead of thinking I’ll wait til the end of the week, I could do without spending that.”