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 “All aboard the Moneybus”

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 “The Marvellous Moneybus: tackling pensioner poverty”

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

Pledge to tackle winter deaths

This week saw the launch of Age UK’s Spread the Warmth Winter Pledge. We  are campaigning for MPs to use their influence to make sure older people have the local support they need during the winter months. An estimated 4.8 million older people live in fuel poverty, where they spend more than 10% of their income on their fuel bills. With rising fuel prices, there is considerable concern that older people will struggle to keep their homes warm this winter.

Age UK is asking MPs to sign up to our pledge to reduce winter deaths, demonstrating their commitment to the reduction of fuel poverty within their community.

By signing this pledge MPs will be committing to:

  1. Raise awareness of the dangers to health of cold weather and cold homes.
  2. Work with their local Age UK to tackle the local priorities for older people.
  3. Challenge energy providers to produce simple tariffs to make it easier for  people to lower their bills.
  4. Promote preventative measures that older people can take before a cold  spell.
  5. Encourage all sectors of the local community to make tacking winter deaths a priority.
  6. To ensure that all my constituents are prepared for winter.

We hope that by encouraging MPs to take local action, we will make sure that older people all over England have the support they need to stay warm and well this winter.

Ask your MP to sign up to our Winter Pledge

Find out more about our Spread the Warmth campaign

Keep the cold out this winter

Every winter in the UK, there are more than 200 deaths per day as a result of the cold weather. Samantha Nicklin, Senior Campaigns Officer at Age UK finds out why, and what can be done.

At Age UK County Durham, a lady asked about how to use the room thermometers being distributed at a ‘Keep Warm, Keep Well’ roadshow. She told the Development Worker about how her friend had a freezing cold house, but the friend wouldn’t take any notice when told that it was too cold for her. The lady took two thermometers away for her friend.

A week later, the lady phoned the office to explain that her friend had put the thermometers up, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and was shocked to discover how cold her house was. She turned up the heating a little until the thermometers were in the ‘comfortable’ zone. The lady said her friend now feels much better and not as tired as she had been feeling.

Simple actions like this save lives. Older people who live in cold homes are at risk of becoming seriously ill. Exposure to the cold causes blood pressure to rise, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke in the winter months. But the risks can be reduced by taking simple actions, like eating an extra hot meal every day, keeping the living room warm during the day and closing bedroom windows at night.

Making sure older people know the health risks, and most importantly, what action they can take stay warm and well, Age UK is distributing Winter Wrapped Up information guides, which come with two free thermometers, so that older people can monitor their room temperature at home and make sure they keep warm when the temperature drops. Age UK is also distributing a recipe book called Keep the Cold Out This Winter, which contains seven winter warmer recipes, and important tips for reducing the risk of illness.

Recent research shows that older people often ignore important messages about keeping warm in winter because they dismiss the information as ‘common sense’. Age UK research found that older people are more likely to take steps to keep warm if they are reminded about the health risks of exposure to the cold and of what actions they can take to reduce their risk.

That’s why Age UK is working with the Met Office to receive Cold Weather Alerts when a cold snap is imminent. We will be informed three or four days in advance of a cold snap that the temperature is likely to drop to below 2°C and stay cold for 48 hours or longer if there is heavy snow or widespread ice.

Every older person deserves to be protected from the potentially life-threatening consequences of the cold and so Age UK will be delivering vital information and services throughout the winter months, helping thousands of older people.

For more information about the campaign, or to order our winter resources, please contact Samantha Nicklin, Senior Campaigns Officer on 020 3033 1431 or email Samantha.Nicklin@ageuk.org.uk

Find out more about our Spread the Warmth campaign

 

 

 

Whatever you do, don’t cut care

All across the country, local authorities are holding talks on how they can reduce their spending. This is a result of, on average, 26% cuts to their central government grants budgets over the next 4 years. Tough choices are inevitable.

But as they work out where they can make savings by cutting red-tape, reducing services, or increasing user charges, councils must remain aware that the demand for many services, in particular social care, is actually rising due to our ageing populationContinue reading “Whatever you do, don’t cut care”