Category Archives: Consumers

Re-grouping for a fresh offensive

Heaven knows we need a fresh start. With every tweak of the programmes, with every refinement of the strategy, the prospects of a convincing victory on the core front just get more remote.   The fuel poor get to make harder and harder choices, the old and the young suffer health setbacks, the misery piles up. Words like national disgrace, scandal, heating or eating, become devalued.

We’ve ended up with a totally perverse delivery system. The general consensus is that an area-based, whole-house approach works best: what we’ve got is market-driven, bench-marked by cost-effectiveness, and funded by the energy companies who can’t deliver at scale because of the impact on consumer bills. We have programmes delivering the least satisfactory outcomes. A Written Parliamentary Answer at the end of January says it all.   Citing the latest figures (21 November), it reported the achievements of the Energy Company and Green Deal in 2013.   471,766 measures had been installed in 403,000 houses (an average of 1.17 measures per house – hardly amounting to a whole-house make-over).   394,370 of those measures had been funded by ECO, and 8,485 by householders getting a Green Deal survey then claiming the cashback offer in the scheme. Only 458 had gone ahead with the Green Deal package, including finance. Continue reading

Checking Reading’s temperature…

A thermostat

Age UK is distributing free room thermometers to older people in Reading this winter

Shockingly, Reading had the highest rate of excess winter deaths amongst those aged 65 and over between 2007 and 2010 – that’s equivalent to an average of 109 deaths per year.

With this in mind, Age UK is running a thermometer pilot project across Reading from December 2013 until the end of March 2014. We are enlisting the help of Gas Safety Engineers and health professionals (occupational therapists and intermediate care workers) who frequently visit older people in their own homes.

They are offering two free room thermometers to older people, along with advice on what to do to stay warm and well at home this winter. The aim of the pilot is to help raise awareness of the negative impact that the cold has on older people’s health and help make a positive difference to the 17,900 older people (aged 65 and over) who live in Reading. Continue reading

Financial resilience as we approach retirement: is it too late to save?

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This question was the starting point of Age UK’s first Financial Services Commission summit event on 6th December. It arose from forthcoming Age UK research which suggests that although those coming up to retirement are often seen as a wealthy and resilient generation, all but the most affluent face considerable challenges, and there is a widely prevalent feeling of uncertainty which deters saving.

The Commission – jointly chaired by Tom Wright, CEO of Age UK and Dr Alexander Scott CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute – was set up to examine how to improve financial resilience in later life.

At the event (hosted by BlackRock, the investment management firm) Tom challenged senior figures from the financial services industry, consumer and regulatory organisations to give their recipe for improving financial resilience among the group approaching retirement. The debate ranged between those who feel we need to build trust in the financial services industry and those who pointed to supply-side failures. So far, so unsurprising. But there was a new mood of optimism and – dare I say it – realism. Continue reading

Why we need the triple lock

440x210_pound-coins In a surprise announcement at the start of 2014 David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that maintaining the ‘triple lock’ for the basic state pension will be a key part of the Conservative’s next election manifesto. This would mean that, at least until 2020, the basic state pension would be increased annually by the rise in prices, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is higher. In response the Labour leader Ed Miliband has also said he is committed to the triple lock.

Reaction has been variable. Some newspapers immediately suggested this would affect other benefits such as the winter fuel payment – the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘Turmoil over OAP benefits’. The Independent welcomed the announcement but said it does not go far enough pointing out that the basic pension is still only £110 a week.

Alternatively, others have focussed on what this means for younger people with the Intergenerational Foundation stating the move is unaffordable and ‘betrays’ the younger generation. Continue reading