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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK
Pensioners demand a better life
Male pensioner warming himself by electric fire
Many pensioners don't take up the benefits they are entitled to
Britain's biggest pensioner organisation is lobbying Parliament with a raft of requests to improve the lives of OAPs.

BBC News Online spoke to Neil Duncan-Jordan of the National Pensioners Convention to examine some of the group's demands.


The basic state pension should be raised to the level of the Guarantee Credit of 105.45 a week and be paid in full to all pensioners.

Mr Duncan-Jordan says: "The current basic pension is 75 and people have to fill in forms and be means-tested to get the full 105.45 a week.

"It's often the very poorest people who don't claim but our argument is that even the wealthiest should get it as the redistribution element takes place in paying income tax, which a third of pensioners already do."

The basic state pension should rise every year in line with average earnings.

"In 1980, the Conservative Party then in power abolished the link between pensions and earnings.

We want to gauge MPs' reactions so pensioners can get an idea whether they are worth re-electing at the next election

"Pensions were subsequently linked to prices but as prices rise slower than earnings pensioners now have about 30% less than they would have if the link to earnings had been maintained.

"So the gap is widening between what pensioners are living on and what the rest of the population is living on."

The 25p a week age addition at 80 should be increased to 25, to cover the increased costs of living independently with age.

"All statistics show that the oldest are also the poorest. People of 80 tend to have drawn on their savings and have little or none left.

"The current 25p a week addition was thought up in 1971 when it was worth a bit more than it is now."

There should be a Winter Fuel Allowance of 300 per pensioner household which rises annually in line with fuel costs.

"It is currently 300 for the over-80s only - it should be extended to all pensioners."

All those of pensionable age should be provided with a free, annual, comprehensive health check.

A lady collecting her pension
Women generally have lower incomes than men in their old age

"We believe that preventative medicine is better than trying to sort problems out after they have developed.

"Under the new GP contracts there is confusion over how many times people can visit their GP in a year.

"The over-75s used to get an annual health check-up but now that health services have devolved to trusts and even GP surgeries, it is difficult to keep a track of such things."

Good quality and affordable home care services and home adaptations should be provided to enable older people to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible.

The gap is widening between what pensioners are living on and what the rest of the population is living on

"Surveys show that 80% of people would like to stay in their own home.

"We would like to see some of the money that is spent on residential care being spent at the other end - on walk-in showers, hand rails and visiting day care nurses."

All long-term care and accommodation should be provided free regardless of the setting.

"Both personal care and nursing care are provided free at the point of service in NHS hospitals, but not once the patient moves on to long-term care elsewhere.

"The vast majority of people have to pay - the means-tested threshold is just 16,000 a year and that includes the value of a person's property."

Carer's Allowance should be paid in addition to any state pension individuals may receive.

When local authorities are hard-pushed the services that get cut are meals on wheels and home helps. These have to be ring-fenced in some way and taken out of this Hobson's Choice

"We say carers do an amazing job saving the state 57bn a year. The least the state can do is give them Carer's Allowance as well as their state pension. Neither are over-generous."

A nationwide travel scheme should be introduced that enables pensioners and disabled people to travel on all buses, coaches, ferries, trams, tubes/metro and trains free of charge.

"This is a postcard lottery. You get free travel if you are in London, Wales, Scotland, Birmingham or Merseyside, but you have to pay half fares if you live anywhere else.

"The government says it would cost 260m a year to give free travel to all pensioners. In terms of government expenditure, it's nothing.

Council tax should be abolished and replaced with a fairer and more equitable system based on government grants, increased localised business rates and income tax.

"We are calling for some services to be taken out of local authority control and made statutory.

"When local authorities are hard-pushed the services that get cut are meals on wheels and home helps etc. These have to be ring-fenced in some way and taken out of this Hobson's Choice."

Grey vote

Mr Duncan-Jordan says the purpose of the lobby is to ask MPs how they feel about the issues contained in the Pensioners Manifesto.

"We want to gauge their reactions so pensioners can get an idea whether they are worth re-electing at the next election," he says.

"There are 11m pensioners in the country and they are more likely than any other sector to turn out and vote.

"In many constituencies pensioners make up double the amount of the majority an MP holds, which gives them real political power if they choose to wield it.

"Political parties must take the views of the grey vote seriously or face the consequences at the ballot box."


SEE ALSO:
Pensioners groups slam new bill
12 Feb 04  |  Business


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