Today Age UK launches its General Election campaign – Dignity in Older Age (www.ageuk.org.uk/generalelection) – which aims to tackle some of the key issues that millions of older people continue to face. Things like difficulties accessing the care and support they so desperately need, living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet, and facing a later life of loneliness.
Throughout the campaign we’ll be covering some of the issues in depth, beginning with Caroline Abrahams on why having a decent income in later life is so important.
What’s the State Pension worth on average? Not surprisingly, most non-retired people don’t know, and the result is that when the ‘triple lock’ is discussed some rather important contextual information like this is usually absent.
This week’s blog from our General Election Series looks at why ensuring that everyone in later life has enough money is a key part of our ambition for the next Parliament.
While Age UK celebrates the fact that being older is no longer synonymous with being poor, sadly this is still the reality for too many. That is why ensuring that people have enough money is a key part of Age UK’s ambition for the next Parliament and the first of our blogs looking at our five priorities.
There are still 1.6 million older people living in poverty and many others living just above the poverty line. We know this can’t be changed overnight but we believe all politicians should commit to at least halving the numbers in poverty by the end of the next Parliament.
In a surprise announcement at the start of 2014 David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that maintaining the ‘triple lock’ for the basic state pension will be a key part of the Conservative’s next election manifesto. This would mean that, at least until 2020, the basic state pension would be increased annually by the rise in prices, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whichever is higher. In response the Labour leader Ed Miliband has also said he is committed to the triple lock.
Reaction has been variable. Some newspapers immediately suggested this would affect other benefits such as the winter fuel payment – the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘Turmoil over OAP benefits’. The Independent welcomed the announcement but said it does not go far enough pointing out that the basic pension is still only £110 a week.
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.
This blog was contributed by Giselle Cory, Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Resolution Foundation.
We know that many people want to work into older age – yet many do not. So what stops them? For some, caring for family or friends can make paid work near impossible.
For others, their own poor health can be a barrier. And for families on low incomes, it may be that work simply doesn’t pay enough to warrant continuing. This can lead to trouble for families who don’t have the savings they need to maintain decent living standards into retirement.
Universal Credit (UC) the government’s flagship welfare reform, could address some of these barriers. For example, under UC low income households will receive an income boost designed to make work pay.
This system could be powerful in ensuring older people have the incentives they need to remain in work. Yet a new report from the Resolution Foundation shows that while UC offers some benefits to older workers, it also misses an opportunity to raise older people’s incentives to stay in a job, or return to work. Without these incentives, low paid work simply does not add up.