Stop taking the p… ?

‘Closing public toilets will save money, reduce drug dealing and stop vandalism.’

Public toilet on a street
Photo: Paul Brady under Creative Commons licence

If you read the local paper where you live, you may well have come across a headline like this. With massive spending cuts looming, many local councils are planning the closure of their public toilets. The British Toilet Association is expecting at least 1000 public toilets to be closed in the next year. That’s on top of the 40 per cent decline we have seen over the last decade.

It is true that public toilets don’t come cheap – upwards of £25,000 a year for toilets with an attendant. And it is also true that some toilets – particularly unattended ones – can attract graffiti and anti-social behaviour.

Closure can seem like an easy win for councils – a way to save money and deal with undesirable behaviour at the same time. But hang on a minute…

For many people – older people in particular, but not exclusively – clean and accessible public toilets make the difference between being able to go out (for a shopping trip, to visit the library or the park) and being stuck at home. Continue reading “Stop taking the p… ?”

Better local transport

‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon: Making sustainable local transport happen’ is the strikingly optimistic title for the new local transport white paper. The aim of the white paper is to encourage more people to use public transport, as well as walking and cycling more often. In line with the government’s localist approach, they are putting responsibility for improving local transport squarely at the feet of local government.

Announced alongside the white paper is a new sustainable transport fund. Councils will be able to bid for a share of the £560 million set aside for sustainable initiatives over the next four years. It is difficult not to feel that while the government is giving with one hand, they have already taken away with the other. Following the spending review, bus services have been particularly hit by a range of cuts – affecting a crucial link in an integrated and sustainable local transport plan. Continue reading “Better local transport”

A youth of labour – but no age of ease?

The Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith penned these verses about retirement in 1770:

“How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,

A youth of labour with an age of ease”

However, this age is far from easy for many who are faced with no choice but to declare bankruptcy in later life.

The number of bankruptcies in England and Wales among people aged 65 and over is relatively low (1,284 or around 3.1 people per 10,000 population in 2009) and even among the 55-64 year olds (at 8,208 –that is, 12.6 people per 10,000 population) is not as high as that for younger groups ( just over 24,000 people aged between 35 and 44 filed for bankruptcy in 2009, roughly 30 people per 10,000 population in this age band). However what is really worrying is an underlying trend: bankruptcies have increased steadily among those over 55 since 2000. In fact as the graph below shows, between 2000 and 2009 the bankruptcies have grown fastest amongst those over 65 years of age (by 7 times!) and those aged between 55 and 64 are the second fastest group (with a fivefold increase). It gets even worse amongst older women: bankruptcies have increased by 10 times since 2000.

Continue reading “A youth of labour – but no age of ease?”

How far have we come on pensioner poverty?

With the first decade of this millennium having now passed us by, it is a good opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved during this period. Ending pensioner poverty was a central goal for both Age Concern and Help the Aged, and continues to be so for Age UK. So, how far have we come in achieving this, and where do poorer older people stand now in 2011?

In 1997, there were 2.9 million pensioners living in poverty, after housing costs. This number decreased in the first part on the decade, but has since stalled at around 1.8 million and even rose to 2.1 million in 2007. However, when this is looked at before housing costs are taken into account, the number of poor pensioners is 2.3  million – not a lot lower than when Labour came to power. Continue reading “How far have we come on pensioner poverty?”

Council funding cuts could make ‘bed-blocking’ worse

This article was originally posted on Left Foot Forward.

This week, the Guardian reported doctors warning that thousands of hospital patients in later life are being made to stay in hospital for longer than they need to, because of inadequate provision of residential care or care at home. In this survey of 502 doctors, 50 per cent reported that the ‘bed blocking’ situation was worse than a year ago. With significant cuts to council funding, it’s feared that next year’s results won’t be any better.

At Age UK, we’re saddened, but not surprised, by the figures collated by the Guardian and Doctors.net.uk. We’ve been consistently arguing that one of the many unpleasant outcomes of failing to invest in good-quality social care for older people, both at home and in residential care settings, is that people end up staying in hospital unnecessarily. Our ‘Don’t cut care’ campaign is calling on local councils up and down the country to use the additional funds allocated to maintain their care budgets and ensure that older people are able to access the care services they need. Continue reading “Council funding cuts could make ‘bed-blocking’ worse”

Happy New Year?

Much media mirth – and indeed derision – accompanied the announcement at the end of November that  measures of happiness, or to quote accurately ‘national wellbeing’ were being developed to allow a comprehensive assessment of what makes ‘lives worthwhile’ and what would improve or detract from our national wellbeing. 

But what is meant by wellbeing?  The UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Wellbeing in Later Life published in June 2006  and conducted jointly by Age Concern and the Mental Health Foundation,  highlighted five key areas which impact upon this: discrimination, participation in meaningful activities, strong social relationships, physical health and poverty.  The report also recognised that the issues were complex and overlapping and that action was required to alleviate these pressures across a range of national and local bodies, public, private and third sector organisations.  Continue reading “Happy New Year?”

The future face of older workers

Depending on the policy area, an older person is defined as anyone above 60 or 75 for various concessions, or 50, when it comes to sticking on the ‘older worker’ label. For the purposes of this piece let us concentrate only on older people of working age –that is, those between 50 years of age and the state pension age.

According to the latest principal population projections, there are about 9.4 million people of working age over 50 in the UK. Furthermore, figures from the Labour Force Survey suggest that 53% of these people are in full-time employment and another 17.5% are in part-time employment. Also 19% of these 9.4 million people have attained at least a first degree but another 15.7% do not hold any formal qualifications.

Using the population projections and data from the Labour Force Survey for each cohort, we estimated what the labour supply of older workers will be like with regards to economic status and skills between 2015 and 2025. That is, we analysed data for women between 35 years of age (who will turn 50 in 2015) and 57 (who will reach their state pension age in 2016, when they turn 65) and men between 35 and 59 (who will reach their state pension age in 2016). We have factored in the fact that state pension age will rise during this period –more acutely for women.

Furthermore, in order to present these results in context, we compared them with the economic activity and skills structure of current older workers. What did we find? Continue reading “The future face of older workers”