First, a health warning – past predictions are not a firm guide to the future, though they are the best we have got. Between December 2012 and March 2016, the number of active gas or electricity suppliers in the domestic market doubled from 20 to 43. Forecasts by the (then) Department of Trade and Industry in 2000 for electricity demand in 2015 turned out to be 20% too high – our appliances are much more efficient than anticipated. Continue reading “Disruptive change ahead in the way we buy and use energy”
This post was contributed by Angela Kitching, joint Head of Public Affairs, at Age UK.
‘A spending review for pensioners’ seems to be the reaction of many in the twittersphere, following George Osborne’s statement. Certainly, the Government’s ongoing commitment to the triple lock, up rating pensions by earnings, prices or 2.5%, is very welcome ongoing commitment. A decent state pension is vital to many older people who rely on the state as their sole source of income in later life and it sets a foundation for a decent retirement income.
But if we restrict our view to incomes alone, we are missing the bigger picture. Older people, as any council funding chief or hospital manager will tell you, are significant users of public services. Adult social care budgets are under enormous pressure as it stands. Over 1 million people aged over-65 do not receive the social care support they need and are coping with no help. These needs include help with basic activities such as going to the toilet or getting dressed. Continue reading “Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015”
Our first blog post of the week looks at the findings from Age UK’s latest Chief Economist report. It focuses on the key economic aspects in the lives of many older people in the UK: inequality and poverty, and benefit take-up.
Almost 60 years ago, Peter Townsend studied the lives of older people in East London and wrote:
The object of national assistance is largely to make up income, on test of means, to a subsistence level… A general definition of need is incorporated in its scale rates, and these are applied to individual circumstances, with certain discretionary disregards and allowances. The sums are intended to cover food, fuel and light, clothing, and household sundries, beside rent, and sometimes, after investigation, small additions are made for laundry, domestic help, or special diet. This definition of ‘subsistence’, on such evidence as exists, appears to be completely unrealistic.
Last week Age UK launched the second edition of its Economic Tracker. This addition includes the result of the first wave of a survey we have developed to track older peoples’ views on the economy and their financial situation.
It received quite a lot of coverage in the media, particularly because of the startling statistic the nearly a quarter of people in their early 50s were worried about losing their home as a result of falling behind with mortgage repayments. Like other age groups many older people are suffering a fall in income in the current period of austerity and this is having an impact on their well-being.
Over three million people aged 50+ are very worried about the cost of living. This is in the context of rapidly increasing prices for some essential items, especially utilities, which we know have a significant impact on older people’s finances.
Only thirty-eight per cent of 50+ say the future looks good for them
35% feel worse off financially compared to last year (see chart below)
Since our first edition, the UK economy and economic policy have given us food for thought. There are concerns, disappointments, and one or two silver linings. As our polling data suggests the economic situation is particularly worrying for many of those approaching retirement, tomorrow’s pensioners, who find it more difficult to find a job following redundancy. Our analysis has found that older workers are more likely to be made redundant when compared to those aged between 24 – 49. This translates into higher proportions of older unemployed workers being out of work for longer. Forty-seven per cent of unemployed people aged 50 – 64 have been out of work for 12 months or more compared to thirty-seven per cent of people aged between 25 and 49. The situation of older people is not as bad as those between 16 – 24, but it is important to highlight that all ages are struggling in these tough economic times.
Quite rightly there is a lot of attention on the young unemployed at the moment, but we must ensure that those over 50 are not forgotten. More can be done by the Government and employers to recognise the value of workers over 50 (the experience and skills that come with a longer working life), provide more training and learning for those in later life, and do more to eliminate the ageism that too often occurs in workplaces.
Lord Filkin was bitingly critical in his response to the Government’s response to his committee’s report on‘Ready for Ageing?’The report had peered twenty years ahead, and found that the political establishment was ‘woefully underprepared’ for the enormous changes presented by an ageing society: the response, Lord Filkin declared, showed that the Government was ‘wilfully underprepared’ to address these issues. He damned its focus ‘on past achievements and the coming election’, when what he wanted was a frank assessment of the changes we will need to make in welfare policies, pensions, health and social care, public services and citizen behaviour over the next couple of decades.
We share Lord Filkin’s frustration. It is clear that the Government finds it difficult to think long term – which is perhaps understandable in a Coalition Government with a programme pivoted on 2015. Whilst they have ignored the suggestion to produce a White Paper setting out strategies to approach changing demographics the Government’s rather minimalist response to ask its chief scientist to review the impact of ageing on policies may produce some fruit. Continue reading “Preparing for an ageing society”
Older people featured rather significantly in the public spending review to 2015/16. The Chancellor talked quite forcefully about the need to address the problems in social care, and in his consideration of welfare spending, he firmly identified state pensions as remaining outside his proposed new ‘cap’.
The landscape for the next Government is coming into view, but what does it mean for older people beyond the rhetoric? By 2016, of course, we should be implementing the legislation currently being debated in Parliament and have in place a new single tier state pension and a new social care regime – funded in part by the ideas proposed by Andrew Dilnot. The spending plans suggest that more money will be diverted from NHS budgets into programmes jointly commissioned with social care. If this means more integrated care and a more ‘whole person’ approach, it will be welcome. But before we get there, local government will have taken another severe cut in its budget, and there is speculation that social care support may be prioritised only for those with critical needs. This means we will remain far away from the ambition to provide the appropriate care which promotes independence and prevents people from becoming substantially or critically in need of care. Continue reading “Spending Review 2013”
Each year, Age UK stands back and takes an overview of how society is meeting the needs of people in later life and sets out our agenda for public policy in the year ahead. In our Agenda for Later Life 2013 report we track changes in a range of key areas including money matters, work and learning and health and social care.
Public attitudes, policies and the economy all impact on people’s experiences of ageing. This year, as the economy bumps along the bottom, it would be all too easy to concentrate on the challenges we face. However, we strongly believe in the need to focus on the opportunities as well.