Pensioners from across Northern Ireland are expected to gather in Belfast's Cornmarket area at 1pm this afternoon to make their voice heard on the need for universal benefits such as the bus pass and winter fuel payment.
The rally, which has been organised by Age Sector Platform to coincide with Older People’s Day, is part of a UK-wide day of action in support of the ‘Hands Off’ campaign. With the aim of defending the need for universal pensioner benefits in the lead up to the general election next year, the campaign has already been supported by over 70,000 people across the UK.
Organisers of the Age Sector’s ‘Can’t Heat or Eat’ campaign today welcomed the fuel credit announcement from the Executive as a step in the right direction, but warned that many older people in need of help will not benefit from the measures.
Bill Carson, Chair of Age Sector Platform, commented: “We are pleased to see that some progress has been made since the ‘Can’t Heat or Eat’ rally at Stormont one month ago. This one off payment of £150 will be welcome news for many pensioners struggling to heat their homes during these winter months. However, ongoing barriers to benefit uptake will mean that tens of thousands of older people entitled to this payment will not receive a penny of it.”
The unheard voice of the average older person in Northern Ireland boomed through the corridors of Stormont today, as a newly established campaigning and lobbying force for older people was officially launched.
Age Sector Platform, which aims to represent a strong and unified voice for older people, was launched by Junior Ministers Gerry Kelly and Jeffrey Donaldson, thereby securing the organisation’s relationship with those whom it will lobby over the coming months and years, on issues of concern to older people.