Fulfilled living in later life

Monday 22nd April 2024

Tackling pensioner poverty

Helen McKay-Ferguson

This month we attended a parliamentary event hosted by the organisation Independent Age on addressing pensioner poverty

Held at the Houses of Parliament on 16th April, the event marked the launch of the charity’s #TwoMillionTooMany campaign which highlights the financial challenges faced by two million pensioners in the UK today.

Speaking at the event was Thabani, a retired nurse and one of the charity’s new ambassadors, whose story illustrated how easily older people can find themselves in difficulty and how important it is they receive help. Thabani shared how slipping in the snow led her to develop osteoarthritis and affected her ability to work. During Covid, she then lost her agency job and, as she was still paying a mortgage, her savings dwindled and eventually ran out.

It was at this point that Thabani got in touch with Independent Age who told her about the attendance allowance, pension credit and council tax reduction that she hadn’t realised she was entitled to.

Thabani spoke of how shame can often preclude people from speaking out and encouraged any older person who is facing financial difficulty to seek help from Independent Age. Thabani said, “As older people we don’t need to be forgotten, we need people to help us to manage our lives.”

Pilgrims Friend Pensioner Poverty Independent Age Thabani crop
Pilgrims Friens Pensioner Poverty Wendy Chamberlain crop

MPs from across the political parties were then invited to speak. As the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for Work and Pensions, Wendy Chamberlain, MP for North East Fife, said, “There is something very wrong when our parents and grandparents are left to suffer in poverty.”

She highlighted the Lib Dems’ commitment to the triple lock pension and drew attention to the gender pension pay gap and the cause of the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), noting that a third of women are not on track to achieve a basic lifestyle in retirement.

Jo Gideon, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent, then spoke of ageist attitudes in society. She commented on the ‘othering’ of older people, saying, “We see ageing as something that happens to someone else.” She spoke of how older people can be called ‘bed-blockers’ and how older people are viewed as occupying houses needed by younger people and as taking their jobs. She spoke of her commitment to countering such attitudes, including working out what it would look like to make Stoke-on-Trent an age-friendly city.

Pilgrims Friend Pensioner Poverty Jo Gideon crop
Pilgrims Friend Pensioner Poverty Stephen Timms crop1

Sir Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham and a Christian, then spoke of the increasing numbers of pensioners drifting into poverty and the role councils may have in identifying older people who are eligible for the pension credit who may not realise it.

As an organisation, we were encouraged to hear individuals from a range of perspectives and political backgrounds all speaking up on behalf of older people. We agree with the campaign’s central message – two million older people in poverty is definitely two million too many.

We hope that in this, an election year, the conversation can continue between key decisionmakers, leading to improved circumstances for older people. We also continue to support the call led by Independent Age for a Commissioner for Older People in England who would represent older people’s needs at the highest levels.

Pilgrims Friend 2 Million2 Many
Pilgrims Friend 2 Million2 Many

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