Ending poverty and inequality in later life

Before getting help from Age UK County Durham, Lily, 88, was having to make painful sacrifices every day due to her limited income. This meant going to bed early just to stay warm because she couldn't afford to put the heating on.
Before getting help from Age UK County Durham, Lily, 88, was having to make painful sacrifices every day due to her limited income. This meant going to bed early just to stay warm because she couldn’t afford to put the heating on.

Last week we launched our End Pensioner Poverty campaign. Joanne Sawyer, Equality and Human Rights Policy Adviser, looks at how the issue of pensioner poverty relates to human rights in the UK.

Today in the UK, 1.6 million older people live in poverty, of whom 900,000 are living in severe poverty.  Whilst the number of pensioners living on a low income has fallen considerably in recent years, progress has now stalled and pensioner poverty levels have stayed the same.  In practice, this means constant financial worries for some older people and struggles to afford basic essentials like fresh food, warm clothes, and heating during the winter.

This unequal situation persists despite the right of everyone in the UK to an adequate standard of living which includes “adequate food, clothing and housing”, whatever their age and whatever their background.[1]  The General Assembly of the UN has stated that “older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help”.[2]

According to the UN Committee which monitors how well states are meeting their duties, poverty is “the lack of basic capabilities to live in dignity” and a denial of human rights.[3]  The last time that the UK’s performance on economic and social rights was assessed by the UN (2009), the UN Committee was concerned that poverty levels varied considerably between different groups in the UK.  As a result, it urged the UK to “intensify its efforts to combat poverty, fuel poverty, and social exclusion, in particular with regard to the most disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups”.[4]

So it’s clear – more must be done

As our report shows, some older people are at far greater risk of living in poverty than others.  Age UK is calling on the Government to

  • develop a strategy and set targets for reducing pensioner poverty
  • introduce a new programme to make older people aware of the benefits they might be missing out on
  • introduce training for local authority staff and health professionals so that they can signpost older people to the support they need.

We hope that the Government will rise to the challenge and tackle this persistent problem. Otherwise, the UK still has a way to go to ensuring that all older people, whatever their backgrounds, are able to live equally in dignity in later life.

For more information on how we can end pensioner poverty please visit our website, or email campaigns@ageuk.org.uk. For advice about benefits and entitlements call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 6565.


[1] Articles 2 and 11 International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights 1966, ratified by the UK in 1976.

[2] Principle 1 of the UN Principles for Older Persons, General Assembly Resolution 46/91 of 16 December 1991

[3] Statement adopted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Poverty and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 4 May 2001, E/C.12/2001/10

[4] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Consideration of UK’s combined 4th and 5th periodic reports, E/C.12/GBR/CO/5, May 2009, para. 28.



Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

9 thoughts on “Ending poverty and inequality in later life”

  1. A major step towards ending pensioner poverty would be to give us what is rightfully ours -our State Pension at the age we’d been promised and contributed to all of our working lives. There are thousands of 60+ years old who are unemployed and have to suffer the indignity of claiming JSA when we clearly shouldn’t have to. The State Pension Age was raised on the premise of we are all living longer. *Life expectancy projections and the capability to continue working well beyond 65 have also been grossly over exaggerated, and bear little State Pension White Paper relation to actual experience. The fact that healthy Life Expectancy is LOWER than the increased retirement age has be ignored.
    The radical reform of the UK state pension system, it has failed to address the current injustices and unfairness experienced by existing pensioners. In particular, the current basic state pension remains completely inadequate – as demonstrated by the need to provide additional support through the means-tested Pension Credit.
    The White Paper proposes automatically linking the state pension age to life expectancy, without any acknowledgement that longevity is affected by profession, income, region and other factors. Whilst as a society we are able to keep people alive for longer now, that does not in itself mean that people are able to work longer. In addition, there are serious concerns as to the health of future generations and the urgent need to enable younger people into the workplace. None of this can therefore be addressed by simply raising the retirement age.*
    Let us not be hoodwinked by Age UK, politicians and the media into thinking that it’s acceptable and expected to work until we drop. We must make a stand against the unfair, unjust and unnecessary changes to the State Pension Law
    Please sign and share if you disagree and disapprove of these changes http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/statepesnionlaw
    * Excepts taken from State Pension White Paper,National Pensioners Convention Briefing

  2. try living on £72 jobseekers minus the bedroom tax because at 60 we cant get our pension which is rightfully ours,now thats what i call poverty.

    1. How can anyone survive on job seekers allowance. I am 60 and have a hard manual job. I am struggling everyday. I have Osteoarthritis and asthma. I have been trying to find an easier job for a long time without any luck. It wont be long before I will have to give up my job. Then what do I do? The so called Government says I can claim JSA. £72 a week. How can I manage on that. I should receiving my pension now. There is no heating allowance no bus pass either. Why is Age Uk not fighting for me and the thousands of people in the same position. Why is it ok for us to live in poverty? This cruel Pension act has created an underclass, people unable to carry on in manual jobs unable to find an alternative and denied the pension they have contrbuted to all their working lives. Why do we deserve to be treated this way?

      1. i am in the same situation as you linda,work 39 hours a week at nearly 61 and suffer from asthma high blood pressure and arthritis and today ive been put back on anti depressants as im finding it hard to cope,if i cut my hours i wont get much help as i have a spare room.how people cope on jobseekers is beyond me especially if they have a spare room.ive worked since i was 15 and now have another 5 years to go whilst alot of the youngsters cant get work.its a crazy situation from a very cruel government and i hope and pray they get voted out next may.no compassion what so ever.

    2. Hi Del6), this could be of help to people on low incomes. I discovered a charity called “Society for the Assistance of Ladies in Reduced Circumstances”. They give financial assistance to ladies and pay for items like TV licences etc. They give a monthly financial grant for two years. There telephone number is 0300 365 1886. Their website is http://www.salrc.org.uk/. I wish everybody all the best.

  3. It appears this post by Laura Collins has mysteriously disappeared from this page. Can’t understand why -a glitch perhaps.

    “I totally agree with everything Anne Keen and del60 have said above. I find it absolutely monstrous that you can say that you care about older people, and yet allow the Government to make changes to our retirement age without any consultation with your target group about how we feel! You just go along with everything as though it’s OK. It’s not OK! There are a lot of people out there who are angered by the way they are being treated. Many of them, including myself, never received anything from the government telling us of the changes they were making. There are still people out there who are not even aware of the changes. This is a disgrace and needs to be addressed immediately.

    As a direct result of these changes, there are many older people, having to sign on in their 60s, paying bedroom tax out of their benefits. Consequently they are living in extreme poverty, while you say and do nothing. How dare you set yourself up as a charity for older people, entertain David Cameron without saying a single word (as far as we know) about this despicable situation. Many of us have worked since we were 15 and deserve to retire when we’re 60, as we were promised all of our lives. The more you are silent, the more we will shout. We will not go away!”

  4. I agree with what these women have said! You as Age UK should be fighting harder to protect pensions for 60 + women. Don’t let Cameron get away with this!! He will rob people of pension age blind whilst lining his own pocket.

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