At the beginning of this year, I set up a special task force to examine issues relating to the security of older people living alone or with other elderly relatives. One of the primary recommendations of this group concerned the need to provide elderly people with specific information and advice on how to improve personal security both inside and outside their homes. On foot of this, my Department, in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Garda, undertook an information campaign which involved mailing information packs to more than 320,000 homes throughout the country. This was supported by the provision of a free-phone helpline to enable people seek further information or clarify any matters of concern to them.
The information pack included a number of useful and informative leaflets prepared by the Garda and dealing with general security matters. It also included a detailed breakdown of the amount of savings or capital a person can have without impacting on his or her pension entitlements. As you know, contributory pensions are based on the person's PRSI record and are therefore not affected by capital, savings or income from other sources.
People in receipt of a non-contributory pension must satisfy a means test but savings or capital up to a certain level can be disregarded. The information pack is intended to inform people of the amounts they can hold without affecting their pension entitlements and to enable them to consider options for placing money in financial institutions.
I have also written to a number of the main financial institutions requesting that they take a more pro-active role in advising older people of the various savings and investment options available to them and I look forward to a positive response from them.