Age-friendly financial capability

This blog was contributed by Barbara Limon, Programme Manager – Private Sector, at Age UK. 

The Money Advice Service, the statutory body responsible for financial capability is currently developing a new strategy for the UK.  But just what does an age-friendly financial capability strategy look like?

Contrary to the stereotype of later life as a time of stagnation, as we age we may need to adjust to events such as falling income, changing health, the need to care for a partner or bereavement.  At the same time, the external world continues to present new challenges, as technologies and the prevailing economic conditions change for good or ill.200x160_money

Age UK’s Planning for Later Life project, funded by Prudential, is designed to help people adapt to just some of these challenges.  Initially piloted with 11 local Age UKs across England and Wales, to date it has helped 2,590 older people through face to face advice sessions, home visits and telephone support. From January 2014 we will be rolling it out more widely. Continue reading “Age-friendly financial capability”

Age UK’s Economic Tracker: many in their early 50s fear losing their home

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)Pensioner income

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.

Read more about the impact of the economy on the financial well-being of older people 

Find out what benefits you are entitled to 

Guest blog – Jo Swinson MP

This guest blog was contributed by Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

Despite the excellent work carried out by Trading Standards and other enforcers, far too many rogue traders still get away without paying any money back to their victims. As the Consumer Minister I was shocked to find out that more than 60% of us have been targeted by misleading and aggressive sales practices at some point. And as more of us get wise to their practices and scams they are happy to turn their attention to easier targets, the most vulnerable and elderly in society.

Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs
Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs

While the vast majority of traders are trustworthy, all too often we hear stories of elderly people being targeted in their own homes by unscrupulous traders. Search online ‘Elderly Scams’ and you get thousands of news stories from all over the country. It can be heartbreaking for families to find that their elderly relative has fallen victim to a rogue trader who pressurised them or misled them into signing up to a completely inappropriate deal that cost over the odds. Continue reading “Guest blog – Jo Swinson MP”

Disarray in fuel poverty policy

In their consideration of the Energy Select Committee report on Energy Prices, Profits and Fuel Poverty (published 29 July), the media focused on the opacity of the energy companies’ accounts, the lack of transparency, and the apparent weakness of the Regulator, Ofgem, in looking after consumers’ interests.

Elderly woman trying to keep warm by the firesideBut the media failed to comment on the trenchant observations made by the Committee on fuel poverty. Here, the Government came in for a lot of flak. The Committee found it disappointing that so much of Government fuel poverty policy centres on short term help with bills when improving the thermal efficiency of the UK housing stock should be the priority. It commented on the hiatus in fuel poverty policy whilst thrashing out a new definition and a new approach, and observed that policy has effectively been frozen at a time when energy price rises have made energy costs increasingly unaffordable for vulnerable and low income households. Continue reading “Disarray in fuel poverty policy”

Making it easier to manage direct payments

This blog was contributed by Barbara Limon, Policy Programme Manager – Consumer and Community. 

Increasingly older people who are in receipt of funded social care are choosing to take this funding as direct payments, meaning they control the funds themselves.  Whilst there are advantages of being in control in this way we’ve found that the process of managing the cash could be made easier for older people.

direct paymentsIn our report ‘Direct payments for social care – options for managing the cash we look at what some the issues are and have identified potential solutions.  The report covers both the ‘traditional’ method of managing direct payments, via bank accounts, and at newer methods using prepaid cards.

Most of the problems we found are not new – they are simply the day to day difficulties which many older people experience in managing their money and paying for things.  Solving the problems highlighted in the report would also solve many of the on-going difficulties older people have in relation to financial services. For example, Chip and PIN card technology has generally been considered a success, but the need to remember and type in a PIN can act as a barrier to independent use of payments. Continue reading “Making it easier to manage direct payments”

EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?

This blog was contributed by Nicola Robinson, Age UK’s European Political Adviser.

2012 wasn’t just the year of the London Olympics, and the Queen’s Jubilee, it was also the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012).

Like London 2012 – recognised as happy and glorious, EY2012 leaves us with much to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony took place in Copenhagen – a pretty good place to grow old, with impressive participation rates in employment, volunteering and all sorts of fun.EY2012

Commissioner Andor fired the starting pistol and Eurocrats were off to a flyer, producing a bumper crop of pan-European reports, including a Statistical Portrait, 2012 Ageing Report, and Eurobarometer Survey.

There are now 182m Europeans aged 50+, living longer, more active lives than ever before.

To celebrate, Age UK hosted a World Café, organized by older people, inviting 100 Europeans aged 50+ to help change perceptions of ageing.  We also celebrated the huge contribution of older people at our Volunteering Awards, supported by the European Commission and Parliament.  And we celebrated physical activity in later life, through our Fit as a Fiddle programme, which won EU and WHO plaudits. Continue reading “EY2012 – a happy and glorious year for older Europeans?”

Financial services – access all areas?

The Government has taken an important step forward in ensuring that financial services work for older people. It proposed an amendment to the Financial Services Act which, for the first time, gives the regulator a mandate not just to protect consumers, but also to ask whether consumers can access the products and services they need.

Age UK has been calling for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to be given this ‘access mandate’.  We’ve been convinced of the need for the regulator to look at access because of what we hear from older people – we see many problems caused not just by dangerous products that consumers should be protected from but also because of the lack of products and services that are really accessible to older people.

200x160_moneyBarriers vary:  it could be direct age discrimination – being told you’re ‘too old’ for a mortgage, or credit card, or insurance.  Or it could be indirect, having to jump through so many hoops to find and obtain the right kind of insurance that you give up.   Often the design of services mean they just don’t work for large groups of older people – for example relying on text messages for updates and removing paper statements will make it harder for many older people to manage their money well, the reduction of the branch network and poorly designed telephone and online banking systems will make it almost impossible for others to manage independently at all.
Continue reading “Financial services – access all areas?”