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.
Barriers 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?”
This blog was contributed by Camilla Williamson, Public Affairs Adviser in Age UK’s Public Affairs team.
In advance of the Queen’s Speech Age UK was clear that the most important single element for older people was the social care bill. While a draft bill on social care is some progress, the announcement of legislation now would obviously have been far better. Social care is in crisis – the system is chronically under funded and in urgent need of reform. Without this, too many older and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances: struggling on alone, many living in misery and fear. With a predicted increase in demands on the system, this situation is only likely to worsen. It is therefore vital that the Government ensures that following the consultation on the draft bill, legislation to reform social care, alongside funding reform, is introduced as a matter of urgency.
On other matters related to people in later life, we were pleased by the announcement of a Pensions Bill to reform the State Pension, creating a fair, simple and sustainable foundation for private saving. We welcome the proposals of the single-tier pension and are very supportive of the aims. However, as proposed, current pensioners would not benefit from any improvements to state pensions. The Government must not forget the 1.8 million older people who are in poverty now.
The Financial Services Bill offers the opportunity to ensure the financial services industry provides safe, fair and accessible products and we believe the Bill should be strengthened to ensure the FCA and Government have the tools they need to address market failure and establish a marketplace in which firms compete to provide all types of consumer with the products and services they need.
The Government also announced a Small Donations Bill which will provide a top-up payment similar to Gift Aid to charities that receive small cash donations of £20 or less, enabling them to claim 25p for every £1 collected in the UK, on up to £5,000 of small donations. This will make a particular difference to smaller local Age UKs and Age UK friends, which as independent charities rely on these kinds of donations to help them to provide a range of support to people in later life.
Find out more about how the legislative programme relates to people in later life
Read our full government and stakeholder briefing