FEAR of the cold was highlighted as the biggest worry facing the older population at the annual Pensioners’ Parliament held in Stormont recently.
The 2012 event, launched by the Age Sector Platform, found that four of out five pensioners held concerns about the cost of heating their homes.
The event also highlighted the fear of crime, food prices and access to health and social care as other major concerns for older people.
Pensioners taking part in the debate, chaired by MLA and Assembly Speaker William Hay, were able to put their concerns to ministers from the Executive.
Over 70 pensioners from across Northern Ireland took part in the event, including Carnmoney woman Anne Watson (inset).
She told the Times: “Following the meeting we also met with all MPs at Stormont and discussed with them the priorities that arose from the Pensioners’ Parliament.
“Three weeks ago we also took a delegation to Westminster and discussed the reduction of the heating allowance with Sammy Wilson among other things.
“It is early days but we are pushing hard for the priorities raised by the Pensioners’ Parliament.
“These are the most important issues affecting the lives of many people and we will continue to strive to make a difference - otherwise there would be no point in having the parliament.”
Michael Monaghan from Age Sector Platform said: “As we approach the coldest months of the year, we are calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to provide help for the most vulnerable.
“Last year the winter fuel payment was cut by between £50 and £100 for pensioners; and whilst the rest of the UK is assisted by a scheme entitling some pensioners to £130 off their electricity bill, the ‘Warm Home Discount scheme’ has not been introduced here.
“Why does the region with the highest levels of pensioner poverty and fuel poverty provide less help to older people for heating their homes?”
Mr Monaghan continued: “The launch of this report is the culmination of a long process of engagement with older people throughout the year, and we are pleased that our Assembly has allowed us to present three important motions on behalf of the 300,000 pensioners living in Northern Ireland.”
William Hay MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said: “On what was the building’s 80th anniversary, I was particularly delighted to host the debate of the Pensioners Parliament.
“I chaired the Pensioners Parliament in Parliament Buildings last year and with an agenda focusing on health, social care and crime, it again highlighted issues of real concern to older people.
“The event is a great example of democracy in action and was a fantastic opportunity for Members and Ministers to hear from older people themselves on the issues that matter to them.”