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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February 2004, 15:06 GMT
Pensioners' manifesto launched
Pensioners' meeting
The demands cover pensions
A pensioners' campaign group has unveiled a manifesto in an effort to make political parties take notice of the "grey vote" at the next election.

Rises in the state pension and an end to means testing top the National Pensioners' Convention (NPC) demands.

NPC president Rodney Bickerstaffe wants would-be MPs to endorse the list.

He said: "This unique exercise in pensioner power will no longer mean that older people can either be ignored or taken for granted."

Prosperity hopes

The NPC says the manifesto has been drawn up by more than 800 groups following the "biggest consultation exercise ever staged amongst older people".

Rodney Bickerstaffe, NPC president
Bickerstaffe: Unique exercise
The final document will be approved by the Pensioners' Parliament in May and then sent to all prospective parliamentary candidates.

The wide-ranging demands cover healthcare, pensions and mobility. They include:

  • Raising the basic state pension to 105.45 a week for a single pensioner and 160.95 for a couple from April (it is due to rise to 79.60 and 127.25 respectively)

  • Removing means testing from pensions and benefits

  • State pension to be linked to average earnings or inflation, whichever is greater, so pensioners share in national prosperity

  • Free annual health checks and long-term care

  • A 200 increase per pensioner household in the winter fuel allowance, with 100 extra for over-80s

  • The creation of a National Older Persons' Commission to scrutinise legislation and make recommendations to Parliament.

'Historic'

Mr Bickerstaff said the manifesto would allow older people to show which candidates support their aims so pensioners are better informed when they cast their votes.

"For the first time in the history of the pensioners' movement we will produce a collection of policies that all the political parties will be asked to support at the next general election," he said.

The NPC says politicians cannot afford to ignore Britain's 11m people aged over 60 as a very high share of them will turn out to vote.

It brands as "shocking" the quality of life in many care homes and is worried that almost 800 residential homes have closed in recent years.

Send us your views on what the political parties should be doing for older people and what you think of the Pensioners' Convention manifesto.


Your comments:

I agree with the entire manifesto. But I think a need to add no Tax on Pension. We have worked all our lives paying taxes on ever think; VAT tax should be more than Enoch to cover any loss. We never use to have it. (That's down to the EU.)
Ken Evans, Sandhurst Berks

For too long successive Governments have taken advantage of their senior citizens. It is high time that this social group demonstrated their real political muscle and ensure that they lobby as strongly as other so called interest groups.
David, UK

This manifesto has a number of great advantages for pensioners, but is there any mention on how all of this will be paid for? Are they also aware that if you scrap means testing a person with a private pension of hundreds of pounds a week would receive the same amount as someone with no private pension? This seems very unfair to me. The limited amount of money that the government has available to it should be targeted to the poorest pensioners, the very basis of means testing. Perhaps people should stop worrying about what they can get out of the government and think about those who really need this money.
Adam Baker, Basildon, Essex

The National Pensioners' Convention's proposals are a fair reflection of the fact that many older people feel left behind by today's society
Ben Harding, Help the Aged, London, UK
The National Pensioners' Convention's proposals are a fair reflection of the fact that many older people feel left behind by today's society. In all sorts of areas, older people feel that they are getting a raw deal. Growing Council Tax and means testing of benefits, declining home care services and a crisis in long term care, the iniquities of age discrimination and changes in the fabric of the community like post office closures are all good examples of the things which are making older people angry and frustrated.

The political power of the older generation should not be underestimated. They are a much more potent political force than younger people, who are much less likely to use their vote. MPs and would-be MPs of all persuasions would do well to listen hard to this debate.
Ben Harding, Help the Aged, London, UK

I am drawn to the comment of "State pension to be linked to average earnings or inflation, whichever is greater, so pensioners share in national prosperity" - who exactly will be paying for this? Combined with free long term care and a removal of means testing this would cost the tax payers millions and quite frankly I don't see why we should. Are personal savings and investments a recent invention?!
Morag Spence, Ayr, Scotland

Whilst I applaud virtually all points put forward, don't ignore the thousands of carers (many of us without support) who are paid a poverty allowance whose sole existence in life is to look after elderly relations in their own homes... thus saving the Country several billions of 's per year... who cares for the carers?
Paul Tubby, Oulton Broad, Suffolk

As the elderly live longer and make up a larger proportion of our society, it becomes harder to fund them. I believe the only practical way to fund this change in demographics is to raise the minimum retirement age. Just as women have had to retire later because they live longer, so should the retirement age rise in reflection of increased life expectancy.
SD, UK

I agree with everything in the Pensioners' manifesto except the removal of means testing. There will always be a group of people who earn so little in their lifetime that they will need extra help when they retire and the only way to do this is by means testing.
Gary Gatter, London, UK

11million voters/members - that's a lot of 'active supporters'. Now the "Grey Party" has a manifesto - why not put up candidates for election and form a government? The rest of the population (not yet 'older') may need to change their perspective....?
N Hopwood, Windsor, England

Spread the pension funds more evenly - we have all worked for it, let us share it
John Plank, Crawley Down, UK
The thing that always amazes me is the number of people who have worked for local government who are enabled to take "early retirement" with enhanced pensions which will be index linked. Who is paying for this? People like myself who are already struggling to pay into a private pension fund which has been badly eroded by stock market falls. Spread the pension funds more evenly - we have all worked for it, let us share it.
John Plank, Crawley Down, UK

Many pensioners have offered more to the UK in their lifetimes than the younger generations would in a thousand years. They are thrifty, courageous and unfrivolous in their approach to life - yet it seems that despite their lifelong contribution in labour, taxes and in offering themselves to defend our freedom in the war, they are always last in the queue for benefits in our country. It's about time pensioner power went on the move to amend this injustice - for all our sakes.
Sarah, London

What a terrible reflection of our society that we cannot freely give pensioners these small things they are asking for. Political parties should encourage people to care more about the vulnerable in society not demand more for themselves. We should remember that these people gave us our freedom and prosperity and not treat them like a burden.
Paul, London, UK

I'm now 61 and hope to carry on working for as long as possible. In the event that my health fails, however, it would be good to know that I don't have to live in penury. I can't afford to go to the dentist, even though I'm working, so please let us have free (or cheaper) treatment. Older people have a lot to offer society, and should not be ignored. As a teenager, I aspired to be a sophisticated "Thirty Something", even though the term had not then been coined. When I reached that much desired age, I found that the teenager had all the power! That's life I suppose.
Dot Queen, Ulverston, Cumbria

Very laudable. Just one thing - who is going to pay for this in the future? The working population in the UK and Europe will fall as the older generation retires. If we hope to enjoy these sorts of benefits when we retire then we have to find workers to replace them, so that there is sufficient tax money coming in to pay for all this. That means we have to think about encouraging immigration to Europe from elsewhere, and this has long term consequences for our culture and our society.
Richard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden

Pensioners have been ill-used by Governments since Thatcher. The decision to cut the link between pay and pensions was unfair and has led to unnecessary hardship. I agree with the Pensioners Manifesto and believe that what they are demanding is extremely reasonable and restrained.
David Rigby, Ilminster, England

Gordon Brown should cease the annual robbery of five billion pounds from the pension funds. To `old` Labour means testing was a dirty word as it penalises those who were thrifty and were not profligate. By all means help the deserving but not the army of spongers we all know of.
D Mc Michael, Stranraer, Scotland

Means testing should be removed as it penalises people who work hard and make some saving for a better future
Sam, Lincoln
Whatever is done, the means testing should be removed as it penalises people who work hard and make some saving for a better future. People who has contributed to the wealth of this country should be allow to have a decent standard of living after their working live and not have to beg for what most people take for granted.
Sam, Lincoln

I think pensioners should remember who is having to pay for their pensions before making requests for such huge rises. Firstly, the higher percentage of OAPs in society means that the number of pensioners supported by each worker is rising. Secondly, we're now told we must save and pay for our own pensions as well as supporting today's pensioners. Perhaps retirement age should rise dramatically to ensure the ratio of workers to pensioners returns to what it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Andy, Bucks

I think the Pensioners' Convention manifesto is fantastic. More power to them! The older generation made this country what it is and they should be rewarded by a comfortable and secure retirement. The closure of homes is scandalous; if MPs had to send their loved ones there then things would be very different. Everyone deserves dignity and good quality care, not just those who can pay for it. I'll be considering the parties responses and it WILL affect my vote, and I'm 25.
Laura Slade, Worcester, UK

There is no way the economy can afford an increase in BSP in-line with earnings given the ageing population. The earnings link was removed when people realised it is unaffordable in the long run. The gross income of pensioners has dramatically increased in the last 20 years due to the increase in the popularity of private pensions. This is the only sustainable way to increase pensioner incomes in the long run. Pensioners have become to expect more in recent years. The poorest pensioners are at the most risk so that's why means-testing is there - to help those who need it most.
Brian Smith, Leeds, England

You have some good arguments to put forward for the "grey brigade", but are we strong enough as a huge group of people to get them listened to. I doubt it very much, because as we are all getting older there are those amongst us who are ok Jack and won't want to rock the boat, those who have a nice private pension for instance, but on behalf of those who haven't "good luck".
Jill McLaughlin, Liverpool, United Kingdom

The political parties had better beware. The post war baby boom are approaching retirement and they will not put up with the treatment that pensioners have received until now. They will have a great influence on policies so the Pensioners Convention manifesto is the first step towards this.
Margaret South, Ashford, England

I agree with much of the manifesto and especially I am against means testing of pensions and benefits. Why should those who have been feckless get more than those who saved a little? Keep older people working if they need the money.
David Phillips, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire



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