Committee asked to help restore pensioner college discount
Date: 30 April 2009
Older people are struggling to pay for college courses since the ending of the pensioner discount, the Assembly’s Employment and Learning Committee have been told. Giving evidence at the weekly Committee meeting, Age Concern/Help the Aged spoke about the effect that ending concessionary rates for courses has had on older learners.
The change in concessionary fees has not come about due to lack of resources but has been implemented due to colleges not wishing to discriminate against younger people.
Chairperson of the Committee, Sue Ramsey MLA said, “This is a ridiculous situation. Our older people should be valued for the asset to society that they are. Facilitating older people to take courses helps them to engage meaningfully with others.
“By ending the concessionary rates for older people, the colleges are putting senior citizens in the position of choosing whether to heat their home and or pay for a course. In these difficult times, not freezing wins every time.
“We have heard from a number of older people who told us how important these courses have been for them. They provide a real social outlet and often represent the only time when some people have meaningful contact with others.
“There are already too many factors isolating older people from the rest of society. You can’t overestimate the effects of loneliness. This is an issue that we all need to take seriously. We will all be old one day and we will not want to be isolated and forgotten.
The Committee intends over the next month to highlight the situation of those senior citizens who can no longer afford course fees which so often provide them with not only a social outlet, but mental stimulation and much needed companionship.