Belfast Telegraph

Charity for elderly voices concern

More older people are living in poverty in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK, it has been revealed.

The number struggling is on the increase as the recession bites. Charity Age Northern Ireland said almost a quarter were too poor.

The group wants to see benefits like winter fuel payments protected.

Anne O'Reilly, Age NI chief executive, said: "If we do not address the needs of the older population today then we risk storing up even greater problems at an even higher cost to the public purse in the future."

A total of 23% of the elderly in Northern Ireland are living in poverty, an increase of 2% on last year's figures, compared to 16% across the UK. By 2030 more than a quarter of the population will be aged over 60.

Ms O'Reilly added: "Our politicians need to make a sound commitment to deliver a vision for a positive ageing strategy that addresses the challenges of ageing now and in years to come.

"Pensioner poverty should be a priority for both the Assembly and the UK Government, with an agreed timeline for its elimination."

The Westminster coalition is considering the system for winter fuel allowances. It is reviewing the universal benefit and could freeze it.

Ms O'Reilly said while rates of poverty among groups like children and working-age adults had reduced in some cases, older people were still at risk.

"It is equally worrying that the gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is so extreme," she added.

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