A fair state pension for all?

This blog was contributed by Hannah Pearce, Age UK’s joint Head of Public Affairs.

Every few years the government announces its intention to fundamentally reform the pension system once and for all to ensure it is fair and sustainable for current and future generations. Each of these attempts is made with good 200x160_moneyintentions and with the hope that the changes will last. However a few years down the line the next government decides it’s time to try again. I’m already working on my fourth pension bill since beginning work for Age UK.

Successive governments are compelled to grapple with the pensions system to catch up with societal changes such as increases in life expectancy, changes in working patterns and to counter structural unfairness. For example several of the state pension reforms in the 2007 Pensions Act sought to ensure that the pension system better reflected the lives of women who often have some time out of employment caring for children, older family members, or working part time.

The compelling reasons for reform under the current proposals were to create a system which is intended to be fairer, simpler and more sustainable. Under the single tier system individuals will receive a state pension based on their own contribution record of up to £146 in today’s money if they have a full record of 35 years contributions. Continue reading “A fair state pension for all?”

A dream retirement – or a chilly future?

Moving to a park home can be a dream retirement for many people – an affordable way of downsizing to a friendly and attractive location. It’s estimated that around 160,000 people live in park homes in England.

But it can also have challenges, and one of these is keeping warm in the winter. A park homeAge UK has been contacted by a number of older residents of park homes in connection with our warm homes campaign.

I just want to mention the millions of forgotten elderly throughout the country who live in Park Homes where cavity wall and loft insulation do not apply. No one considers them!

I live in a Park Home and we, as a group of older people, have even greater problems… My winter bills are in excess for £140 per month. We would just like some help to make our homes more energy efficient. Continue reading “A dream retirement – or a chilly future?”

Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders

The retirement homes sector has come under fire in recent years over reportedly unfair practices by some retirement housing providers – aspects of which have recently been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).  Problems include confusing service charges, lack of competitive tendering for maintenance contracts, high transfer fees, high commission charges on building insurance and unfair rental charges for wardens flats.

In response to these concerns, the Association of Retirement Housing Managers 440x210-woman-leaning-on-fireplace(ARHM) – which the majority of providers are members of – has worked with Age UK and a panel of leasehold residents to improve their voluntary code of practice.  The ARHM has also given older people and their families the opportunity to help shape the new code to improve practice in the retirement home industry. This consultation comes after a recent roundtable discussion, chaired by the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, looking at promoting best practice in the sector. This is helpful, but it is vital that as well as listening to the views of the retirement housing industry, residents also have an opportunity to express their views and influence Government policy. Continue reading “Have your say – a better deal for older leaseholders”

A single-tier State Pension

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.

200x160_moneyAge 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”

Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age

This guest blog was contributed by Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAENThe Age and Employment Network. 

The idea of a given ‘retirement age,’ when most people abruptly cease work, may soon be a thing of the past. While it is important not to exaggerate this trend, we can’t just ignore it.

Every day, it seems, the media carries stories about how people will have to work longer. Sarah O’Grady recently wrote in the Daily Express under the headline, ‘Millions must work forever.’

A sense of proportion is important. Currently more than 90% of people over 65 are not in work and the majority are retired. Of those over 65 who want to work, most are concentrated in the 65-70 age bracket.

However as the state pension age rises, if finances become more difficult and if more employers create age friendly workplaces, we may see more people working much longer.

Nobody has a clear picture of how many pensioners would prefer to be in work. Not entitled to claim unemployment benefit or support from Jobcentre Plus, it seems once claiming the state pension, one is forgotten as a worker. Continue reading “Guest blog – Working beyond retirement age”

Sheltered and retirement housing – ‘Making it Work for Us’

Age UK has launched a new report on sheltered and retirement housing ‘Making it Work for Us’, coinciding with a meeting of MPs and Peers to discuss reforms to leasehold housing. The complexity of leasehold agreements in retirement housing makes some older people vulnerable to financial exploitation – an issue we address in our report. Older residents tell us they are increasingly concerned about lack of transparency in leasehold contracts, particular in regard to service charges.

To produce the report Age UK supported a panel of older residents to look at how sheltered and retirement housing could be improved. Most of the residents were positive about what retirement housing could offer, but had concerns about a failure to address issues around bad practice.

Why is this so important? Currently only a very small percentage of older people actually live in retirement housing; the vast majority live in ordinary mainstream housing. Yet there is a growing interest in the role of retirement housing in freeing up larger family homes for younger people.  Achieving this is difficult when there just isn’t enough affordable, well designed retirement housing in the right locations to make a real difference. Continue reading “Sheltered and retirement housing – ‘Making it Work for Us’”

Auto-enrolment is rolling out

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.

Continue reading “Auto-enrolment is rolling out”