Author Archives: samanthanicklin

All aboard the Moneybus

Age UK’s Moneybus has helped older people claim more than £300,000 in health and income benefits. Sponsored by Legal and General, the Moneybus visited English regions with the highest number of older people that are eligible for financial benefits, but haven’t claimed – Cheshire, Leeds, East Riding, Bradford and District, Country Durham, Northumberland and Wiltshire. Pippa Webster, who manages Age UK Salisbury’s Information and Advice department, tell us about her experience on the bus.

When the Moneybus came to Salisbury at the beginning of October, I spent the day giving advice to all those who climbed aboard. The organisation of the event and the Age UK volunteers who came as support were absolutely fantastic – giving away 950 goody bags and encouraging more than 50 people to come into the bus to discuss the benefits they might be entitled to.

Although it was a bit of a tight squeeze at times, it was remarkable how many older people came along to see us who weren’t at all perturbed at discussing their financial situation with us on a bus! Continue reading

The Marvellous Moneybus: tackling pensioner poverty

Far too many older people are living in poverty – the latest figures put the number at 1.8 million. That’s an incredible number of people struggling to ‘make do’ on less than 60% of average (median) income after housing costs.

But despite the scale of poverty in later life, a huge amount of benefits, £5.5 billion, goes unclaimed each year. About 30% of older people who are eligible for Pension Credit do not take up their entitlement.

So, you may ask, if  so many older people living in poverty are in such desperate need, why don’t they claim their benefits?

The Moneybus visits Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire

Many older people have had negative experiences when claiming benefits, finding the whole system insurmountable. For example, the application form for Pension Credit is 43 pages long. Older people are more likely than any other age group to miss out on their benefits because they are hesitant to claim, don’t think they are eligible, or believe the claiming process is over-complicated and intrusive. There is a real need to get rid of the stigma that some people associate with claiming benefits.

Age UK’s More Money in Your Pocket campaign aims to overcome these barriers, offering independent information and advice that is delivered by our trusted local Age UK partners. Our Information and Advice workers support older people them to claim what they are entitled to.

Today marks the start of the More Money in Your Pocket road-show, sponsored by Legal & General (L&G). After several months of planning, our newly branded Age UK bus is on the road visiting the eight areas in England that the Department of Work and Pensions have identified as having the highest numbers of  older people who are eligible for Pension Credit but have not claimed.

Continue reading

Celebrating older carers

Last week was Carers Week – an annual week of activity to raise awareness and celebrate the contribution of 6.4 million unpaid carers in the UK. Age UK is a national partner charity and more than 120 local Age UK partners, training centres and affiliated organisations took part. Across the country, local Age UK partners were busy making sure older carers felt special. Many organised special events, like Age UK Derby and Derbyshire who organised pampering sessions, so that carers could have a break.

This year, the theme of Carers Week was ‘In sickness and in health’. Caring often goes further than the wedding vows, it recognises that many carers devote so much of their time caring for a family member or friend; they can often end up ill themselves.

Carers Week Speed Networking event

Carers Week highlighted the need for sustainable funding for social care services and the need for better support for unpaid carers both practically and financially. This year’s campaign called on GPs to take an active role in registering carers attending their practices so that they’re sign-posted to support services, offered respite and get the advice and information they need to look after themselves and the people they care for.

Ann Mir, 77, a Trustee of Age UK Camden, attended a Carers Week Speed Networking event with MPs on Monday. She spoke to MPs about her caring responsibilities and the challenges facing many older carers. ‘I care for an 84 year old friend who I have known for 47 years. Mobility is her biggest problem. The last two times she’s been out on her own she’s fallen, so I go with her. Her memory is also a problem. She can’t use the cash machine or remember to take pills, so I liaise with the pharmacist. I also keep her company. My friend has had three bereavements in the last year so it’s been a very difficult time for her. I’m worried that she might be developing dementia. I got the GP to come round to do a home visit, which was quite an achievement, as home visits are rare as hen’s teeth! Hopefully this will help her get the support she needs.’

Ann hopes that by talking to MPs at the event, she was able to convey some of the difficulties that carers face and the need for better financial, practical and emotional support.

Age UK are calling on the Government to urgently reform the care system. More than 130,000 people have signed the Care in Crisis petition calling for reform of England’s care system. Find out more about our campaign and how you can get involved.

Care Can’t Wait

Last week, Age UK presented Number 10 Downing Street with a petition signed by over 130,000 people calling on the Government to end the crisis in social care.  The size of the petition means it is likely that Parliament will be required to debate this important issue, bringing the needs of older people who are being let down by the care system to the forefront of all MP’s minds.

David Gower, who shared his personal experiences of social care in support of Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign, attended Number 10 Downing Street to present the petition. He said ‘We need reform because we need to be able to help those who are unable to help themselves and there are many members of the United Kingdom’s citizens in this unfortunate situation. We do not and cannot afford to have a crisis where people at the moment are brought home from hospital, dumped in their flats and told to get on with it. It’s time to change right now.’

The next month is set to be critically important for all our futures, whatever our age.  Having been beset by delay upon delay, the Government has indicated that it will finally publish the Social Care White Paper either this Summer.  A Draft Bill will be published hard on its heels before the end of this parliamentary session in July.

Legislation and reform is urgently needed.  Social care provision is now at breaking point as chronic under-funding, a conflicting and confusing legal framework, and an ageing population have created a crisis in social care, betraying some of the most vulnerable people in society today.

But this historic opportunity to provide root and branch reform and funding for social care comes at a time of austerity measures, and serious economic uncertainty.

Ministers have indicated that the White Paper and Draft Bill will mainly deal with reforming and simplifying social care legislation, which will go some way to ending the iniquitous postcode lottery of care provision experienced by thousands of older people across England. 

But it is the issue of how to fund social care that remains the most critical, and most divisive.  Cross party talks have been underway since January 2012. Ministers and their civil servants will have engaged in long, hard discussions with the Treasury on the future direction of funding. 

It’s not clear at this moment in time, whether consensus has been reached, either within Government departments or across the political parties.  The Government has said that it will publish a funding progress report at the same time as the White Paper.  Age UK is hoping that the progress report will contain a positive response to the Dilnot Comisssion’s recommendations for a maximum £50,000 cap on the cost of an individual’s care, which will protect older people from the sometimes catastrophic costs.

Funding and reform of social care is one of the key challenges for this Parliament, and indeed this generation of politicians. 

Even set against the austerity measures, there are positive choices the Government can make.  Funding and reform of the current social care system will help older people stay healthy and independent for longer and reduce the pressures on the National Health Service. 

At this critical moment, Age UK is therefore urging the Government to use the White Paper, the Funding Progress Report and Draft Social Care Bill, as the foundation stones of a sustainable, and fair social care system.  After 25 years of political prevarication, resulting in trauma and loss for hundreds of thousands of people, it is now time to resolve the crisis in care, and guarantee dignity for each and every one of us.

Watch a video of David Gower explaining why he is supporting Age UK’s Care in Crisis campaign

Find out more about our campaign