In this guest blog post, Sally Brett, Senior Policy Officer (Equality and Employment Rights) at the TUC, examines the inequality of survivor pensions.
Welfare reform and the benefits system have been high on the news agenda recently, but an often overlooked issue is the persistent problem of pensioner poverty. With 1.7m pensioners (14%) currently living in poverty, and £5.5bn pounds of benefits left unclaimed by pensioners, Age UK has re-launched its Let’s Talk Money campaign.
A significant amount of research highlights that there are many reasons why older people aren’t claiming the benefits that they are entitled to – from a perception that the application process is too complicated, to the belief that they don’t qualify.
With so many people slipping through the net, Age UK aims to challenge the myths around eligibility, and encourage older people to claim the benefits that they are entitled to so that they can make the most of later life.
The campaign continues to focus on encouraging older people to claim the benefits they are entitled to, such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance.
People on low incomes can use the extra money that benefits provide to pay for utility bills, broken appliances or some much needed help around the house – removing financial stress that is a burden for so many. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Money”
A demographic revolution is under way, with more of us living longer than ever before. Fifty years ago there were nearly 20 million people in the world age 80 or over; now that figure stands at about 105 million, and it’s rising fast. Many – though not enough – of our older population are in good health and will retire with a decent income and a strong social network, and many have much to offer society.
The timing of the debate around the aging population in the UK is then perhaps unfortunate, held as it is against a backdrop of a beleaguered economy. Since the Coalition Government came to power we have seen cuts to government services and working-age benefits and a further £10 billion reduction in welfare to come. Against this context there is a perception that older people have fared better than most other groups but media commentary suggesting that today’s older people belong to “the lucky generation” obscure the enormous variations that exist. This is particularly stark in terms of poverty and wealth – fewer than half of all retirees have an income big enough to pay income tax. Older people’s median income levels remain lower than those of the population as a whole. Continue reading “UK life reimagined”
Last week saw the publication of the long awaited White Paper on State Pension reform. This sets out plans for a single-tier State Pension of around £144 a week for people reaching State Pension age in the future (probably from April 2017 onwards). The reforms aim to create a simpler system, reducing the need for means-testing and making planning for retirement easier. They are also intended to produce a fairer system with a better State Pension for those who have had years of low earnings and caring responsibilities.
Age UK supports these aims and we have welcomed the reforms as an important step forward for future pensioners. However we are aware that there are criticisms. In particular many older people with State Pensions of less than £144 are angry that they will not benefit. Continue reading “A single-tier State Pension”
At the start of the winter, it might seem strange to write about swallows and summers, especially when 21,700 older people died of cold related illness last year. That wasn’t 2,170 people. It was ten times that number and over the last 10 years, an average of over 26,000 have died each winter. You might be tempted to think that these deaths would have happened anyway and that they are ‘just brought forward’ by the cold of winter. But all the evidence tells us that this is not the case.
Every single death is unnecessary, avoidable, preventable. For any other preventable cause of death this would be a national scandal. There would be outcry, protest, even outrage. And even more so when we know that this has been going on for over 150 years, since 1841 when the then registrar general, William Farr (who also happened to be Florence Nightingale’s statistician) first recorded an excess of winter deaths over the summer. A conservative estimate tells us that this amounts to an all-time, truly shocking total of over some 3 million deaths.
For the last 30 years there has been a debate about cause but the evidence shows that the over-riding reason for these deaths is the personal exposure of the individual to cold temperatures. This cause was first revealed by Curwen’s ‘regression model’ in 1997 when he showed that there were three factors most associated with excess winter deaths. These factors were secular trend (roughly equating to improvements in standard of living); influenza (only in epidemic years) and temperature. Of these three, the most strongly associated was temperature. Continue reading “One swallow does not make a summer”
The Chancellor delivered his third Autumn Statement today. He tried to strike a tone of cautious optimism over recent economic data suggesting the end of the recession and rising employment. Underneath this, however, there were more cuts as Government struggles to eliminate the structural deficit as it has prioritised.
Yet again the biggest omission from the Chancellor’s statement was any plan to help resolve the crisis in social care. We welcome the continued protection for the NHS budget but unless funding for social care is urgently addressed then the knock on costs to the NHS will continue to grow. The announcement of a further two per cent cut to council budgets in two years’ time is likely to exacerbate this if it leads to further reductions to frontline care and support services that are often already stripped to the bone.
Allowing the social care system to limp along, leaving too many older people isolated and afraid of what tomorrow might bring, is not only morally questionable but makes no financial sense. Reform of care funding would be a worthy legacy for any Government, it remains a scandal that 18 months after Andrew Dilnot published his report, it remains unresolved. Continue reading “No news is not always good news”
October 1st, the day Auto-enrolment started, may just have signalled a revolution in how we save for retirement. By 2017 every business will have to automatically contribute to and enrol all staff over the age of 22 who earn more than £8,105 into a workplace pension. When it’s fully up and running, it’s hoped that six to nine million more people will have a private pension. At Age UK, we sincerely hope it will be the nudge some people need to start saving.
Just 2.9 million people paid into a workplace pension last year, an all- time low and a deeply disturbing trend when combined with rising life expectancy. Yet more people are living longer after retirement than ever before, many of them struggling on a basic state pension of around £107.
Auto-enrolment is an important first step in reform, helping people begin to build up a nest egg for later life . But in order to fully live up to its potential, the Government has to go further and faster.
Age UK believes if auto-enrolment is to appeal more widely, particularly to those on low incomes, the Government must deliver its commitment to a flat rate pension . This should alleviate the concerns of those who fear it will jeopardise any means tested benefits they receive and give them a better idea of how much money they should expect at retirement, encouraging them to save.