This week’s blog, from our General Election series, is a guest post from campaigner John Haywood.
I originally got involved with Age UK when I was advised to visit the Age UK shop in Romford- they’ve got a little office at the back where I was given a benefits check. It was such a relief- I’d been struggling to pay my bills, and they told me I was actually entitled to a whole load of benefits, like exemption from council tax and Pension Credit. It’s made a vast difference to me. Now, I’m telling people my story, and campaigning to make sure other older people get what they’re entitled to.
As an Age UK campaigner, I’ve been involved in the General election campaign. I sat on the Age UK sofa opposite Big Ben and explained how I thought we could make Britain a great place to grow older. For me, the essential thing I want to see from the next parliament, is a commitment to making sure older people have enough money to be comfortable. And that they know about what is available to help them if they don’t.
I speak to so many people who just don’t know what help they could be getting. Day to day, I give people as much information as possible. I tell them about Age UK and the help they can get- for instance, a friend of mine who is 80, and cares for his 92-year old sister. But this isn’t enough. The government needs to commit to ensuring older people have enough information, and know where to go to get it. I was terrified at the thought of how I’d get by when I retired. I only found out about benefits checks by chance- someone mentioned it to me on the bus, just like I now mention it to people I meet on the bus! It shouldn’t be down to chance, because it is so essential.
Older people shouldn’t face the winter worrying about how to pay for their gas and electricity bills. They shouldn’t be wearing shoes that are broken, or don’t keep them warm. They shouldn’t feel guilty for being a burden- which seems to me to be the constant message coming from the media, that we’re getting more than our dues. They should know that if they’re struggling, there is help available. It’s difficult, people don’t like talking about money, but it needs to be done. I’m not generally a very assertive person- but people need to know what they’re entitled to. I think this small step, making information about where to get financial help more readily available, would go a long way to making Britain a great place to grow older.
On 7 May 2015, we will all vote to choose our future MPs and the next UK Government. It’s vital that once elected our politicians act on the issues that affect older people, today and tomorrow. Ask your Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to become Age Champions