My last post dealt with child allowances and my belief that, in Ireland, they are excessive. This time I am looking at the other end of the age scale: old age pensioners; and especially those, like myself, of foreign origin residing here in Ireland. And, no, I am not complaining that we don't get enough; rather, that we are another group whose treatment by the state is more generous than it ought to be.
I recently turned 70 which means that I am eligible for something called "The Household Benefits Package". This consists of a free TV licence, assistance with telephone costs and a contribution towards fuel costs. The latter is in addition to the heating allowance to which every UK citizen over 60 is entitled. And the whole package, which amounts to about €700 per annum, is in addition to the far more generous tax allowances received by senior citizens in Ireland. My wife and I are jointly able to receive up to €36k per annum before we become liable for income tax. This age related exemption is, however, being phased out over 4 years from 2011 when it was reduced from €40k.
Free Medical Treatment
A further way in which I and other overseas pensioners resident in Ireland receive preferential treatment is with regard to the Medical Card which entitles certain groups to free medical treatment. In general it is not available to Irish citizens until they turn 70 and, even then, is subject to a means test. In the case of anyone in receipt of a social welfare benefit from any state within the European Union no means test is applied so that anyone receiving, for example, the UK state old age pension is entitled to a medical card. I have been happy to take advantage of this over the past number of years because I assumed that there was in place some kind of agreement whereby medical costs that I and my wife incurred would be reimbursed by the UK government.
In short, I have all the benefits of a UK citizen plus the advantages of living in Ireland. I thank the Irish for their generosity but can't help feeling that in this, as in so many other things, the Irish are too kind for their own good. The only downside from my point of view is the exchange rate. When we arrived we were receiving €1.50 for every £1 we transferred from our UK accounts. That changed quite dramatically within little more than a year since when it has been fluctuating at around €1.15. I can't wait for the long forecast collapse of the Euro which should mean I can once again get more €s for my £s and more to spend here in Ireland, helping local businesses to stay afloat.