Belfast Telegraph

Pensioners' plight highlighted

Pensioners in Northern Ireland have the lowest incomes in the UK, it was revealed.

Average untaxed payments over three years from 2008 were worth £520 a week for couples or £242 for single people, research showed.

The Age Sector Platform lobby group said older residents in Northern Ireland were more likely to be entirely reliant on state support for their income.

Chairwoman Patricia Donald said: "The ability to keep warm and eat a balanced diet should not be out of reach for the average pensioner and it is outrageous that this is the case considering the contribution these people have made throughout their working lives and continue to make through caring, volunteering and as grandparents."

A study of the period from April 2010 to March 2011 was published recently by the Department for Social Development.

Key findings included:

:: All pensioner couples and single pensioners in Northern Ireland received on average £400 per week in gross income in 2010-2011, an increase of 13% from 2003-2004. Approximately half this total (£204) came from state benefits.

:: In 2010-2011 average weekly income after tax but before housing costs and after housing costs for all pensioner units was £343 and £326 respectively. Average net income before housing costs rose by 11% between 2003-2004 and 2010-2011.

:: A three year average of weekly gross income for pensioner couples shows that in 2008-2011 Northern Ireland was the lowest ranking region (£520) of all regions in the UK. This compares to Wales (£609), Scotland (£615), England (£617) and the UK average (£614).

Single pensioners also had the lowest gross weekly income (£242) of all regions in the United Kingdom; this compares to Wales (£282), Scotland (£285), England (£299) and the UK average (£295).

In 2008-2011, Northern Ireland had the highest weekly benefit income (£221) for pensioner couples of the United Kingdom regions, £12 per week higher than the United Kingdom average (£209).

Single pensioners had the second highest benefit income (£177) of all regions in the United Kingdom, level with Scotland, higher than England (£174) and £2 higher than the United Kingdom average (£175).

Ms Donald added: "It is clear that pensioners in Northern Ireland are having to survive on a lot less than their counterparts in other areas of the UK, and unsurprisingly are finding it difficult to make ends meet."

This year's Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament survey found that the top concerns for older people were the price of energy and food.

According to Ms Donald, pensioner poverty is higher in Northern Ireland than any other region of the UK, with one in five pensioners affected.

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