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Why is it, every time we come close to an election (local and EU are both planned for this month) that pensioners are demonised as a drain on society?

The recent news from the house of Lords [http://tiny.cc/tj105y] comes as no surprise but it is alarming and everyone should take note, not just pensioners.

A report from the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has made wide-ranging recommendations on benefits for the elderly, calling for much of the help for older generations to be curtailed.

Lord True is the chair of this particular Lord’s committee.

You will all be/get old one day. 

You will all (in the main) have paid into society for all of your lives: via National Insurance, income tax, V.A.T., petrol tax etc.

Olwyn and AlbertI know that when I started my post-compulsory educational life (at 15) I expected to pay into a national health system (the NHS itself is a whole ‘other’ blog post) along with the subsequent pension, that then required 45 years of input.  It was my insurance policy for old age.  The 45 years changed over time, but by whatever measure you use, I paid IN to the system and am now benefiting from that by taking OUT no more, no less than I expected.

  • I get a basic national pension, (reduced by who knows what % because I also had the foresight to fight for my work-based pension rights. See below #4),
  • I get free bus travel (see below #1),
  • I get free prescriptions (see below #2) and …
  • I get a winter fuel allowance (see below #3).

All of which are under threat by the discussions now taking place.

#1 – Free Bus travel.

This is a benefit that I hadn’t expected at the age of 15 but one I became aware of as my life progressed. Once anyone reached the age of 60, they used to get a free bus pass. I got mine because my age ran alongside that of women who were being forced to wait, incrementally, until they were 65 to collect their pensions (again – see #4).

  • Without the pensioner bus pass subsidy, I suspect there wouldn’t be many off-peak buses running and that the peak-time buses would be far more expensive – meaning that even those who pay now, would pay even more.
  • Without the pensioner bus pass, far fewer old folk would get out and about. I’m lucky, I live in a village where most things are available to me (all kinds of shops, an Aldi, pubs and restaurants) but many are not so lucky. Even getting out to meet other people is something older folk need to do. Otherwise, they become isolated, reclusive and progressively ill. Unfortunately, many pensioners could not afford to ‘get out and about’ with bus fares being what they are.
  • Without a pensioner bus pass, pensioners who by nature of their age are becoming more infirm, would not be able to easily visit their doctors or to attend their increasingly distant hospital appointments.
  • Without my own pensioner bus pass, the weekly walks I have with John would be far less exciting. One of us would have to drive, adding our four wheels and fumes to an already overcrowded infrastructure.

#2 – Free Prescriptions

Free prescriptions have been on and off for everyone throughout my life, not just pensioners.  They are a political hot-potato.  At the age of 60, they again became free. As we reach old age, we require more health preserving drugs and medicines. These help to stave off the infirmity mentioned earlier. The free drugs and medicines given out are generic, so no (much more expensive) named brands are available this way – why should the drug companies be made even richer! I do not abuse the system and fully understand why folk get upset to hear of (e.g.) paracetamols being prescribed. However, I believe that this is changing and wait to see exactly how it all pans out.

#3 – Winter Fuel allowance

This one came as a surprise at 60.  A nice surprise, but one that for me was not strictly necessary. I used the £200 to buy wood for my log burner in the first few years and if it helped those who DO NEED THE SUPPORT, I would be happy to give it up (the same would apply to post-75 free T.V. licences mentioned in the report).

#4 – Pension v benefit

This one makes me furious. The U.K. does not have the best pension in the world and there are many sites on the internet which contradict each other about how the pension is calculated. Nevertheless, it is a pension. It is something that most workers pay into for their entire working lives – it is NOT a benefit.

Women, who used to be allowed to retire at 60, now have to wait until they are 65. Soon (next year) both men and women will have to wait until they are 66 to retire and changes are even planned to increase that age. https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/money-legal/pensions/state-pension/changes-to-state-pension-age/#

There are more changes planned. From 2019, the State Pension age will increase for both men and women to reach 66 by October 2020.

The Government is planning further increases, which will raise the State Pension age from 66 to 67 between 2026 and 2028. (via AgeUK)

This might (just) have been fair if the person was told at the beginning of their working life that their retirement age would change – rather than towards the middle or end of their working life.

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And all of this is despite the UK’s life expectancy rates stalling https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45096074  We’re still getting older, but at a slower rate. Nevertheless, we are not staying healthy longer and demanding that an aging population stay at work even longer simply seems to be a way of ensuring that age expectancy reduces, rather than stalls. 

Can YOU imagine being a manual worker; told to work for up to (and eventually more) two years (seven in the case of women) before collecting their pension?

Retirement image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/images/search/royalty%20free/

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A piles of copper penniesI’m getting a bit fed up now of the constant carping by Government and the national media on how ‘wealthy pensioners’ are the new scroungers and that they don’t deserve the benefits they currently enjoy.

I have to state here and now that I have always, throughout my working life, thought that we – the working majority – have a duty of care towards those in retirement and those unable to care for themselves.  As I am fast approaching this venerable stage of life I see no reason to change my opinion now.

Nor do I believe that the rights and benefits I have worked towards all of my life should be reduced or removed.

What is wealth? What do politicians and newspaper columnists mean when they talk about wealthy pensioners?

We are all led into thinking that millionaires like (for example) Lord Sugar should not be entitled to a free bus pass or winter fuel payments. Because of course, he is wealthy. He is wealthy by any scale we use – but I still think that if he and others like him have paid their dues for all their working life, as I have, then they should the same benefit as the rest of us. However – can you honestly see him using a bus pass or actually noticing his winter fuel payment? Really?  He and his businesses will pay more BACK through taxes and the various other ways that HMG suck us dry than we can possibly dream of.

The real issue is that once the populace have accepted, as they are now being led to accept, that wealthy pensioners are scroungers and that those benefits (which all pensioners have worked for, all their lives) should be removed, everyone will lose out.

If HMG remove the right to free bus passes, they will stop funding the bus companies and the bus companies will stop running socially needed buses. In many areas, this is already a huge problem but if bus company revenue dries up even more, they will provide less services. If winter fuel payments stop (which don’t actually cover the cost of winter fuel anyway) then more ‘wealthy’ and not-so-wealthy pensioners will die.

I don’t want my parents (in their 80s) or their contemporaries to have to remain in the house simply because there are no buses or worse, to die because they can’t afford to eat AND heat.

And I don’t want to be faced with the same options myself at any time in the future.

Remember – my generation has paid its dues for over forty years; everything various governments have asked. We have done so in the knowledge (the belief?) that our payments were being invested in a social service that aimed to improve the lives of pensioners and those unable to fend for themselves. And to secure our own futures.

Do not let this change. Do not let the insidious drip-feed of lies become the truth.

 

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