Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Parliamentary candidates fail to respond to pensioners' group letter

Lancaster District Pensioners’ Campaign Group (LDPCG) have written to prospective Parliamentary candidates from the Conservative, Labour, Lib-Dem, Green and TUSC parties in the Morecambe and Lunesdale Constituency and in the Lancaster and Fleetwood Constituency calling on them to promote the National Pensioners' Manifesto 2015.

They sent out their letters by email on 12 February (with a copy of the Manifesto attached) but, to date, aside from auto-responses not one single candidate has replied to it.

The letter sent by LDPCG to 9 parliamentary candidates

The Pensioner's Manifesto calls on parliamentary candidates in the May 2015 general election to support these policies:
  • A basic state pension for all elderly people, set above the poverty level of £175 a week
  • Increases in pensions to be linked to the best of RPI, CPI, earnings or 2.5%
  • Universal pensioner benefits (bus pass, winter fuel allowance, free TV licences for the over-75s and free prescriptions) to be maintained without means-testing
  • A National Health and Care Service which is free at the point of use and funded through taxation
  • A legally binding Dignity Code to improve the quality and standards of care for older people
You can view and download the manifesto in full (it's only one page) at the National Pensioners' Convention website at http://npcuk.org/.

There are currently 11 million people aged 65 or over in the UK (and they are the age-group most likely to use their vote). According to the Office for National Statistics this figure is expected to pass 16 million by 2032. As things stand it will continue to rise through 2050.
The number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to double in the next 20 years and nearly treble in the next 30 (these people are now just in their 30s+).

Yesterday Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised that universal pensioners benefits would remain free from means-testing as long as he remains Prime Minister. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they would remove some benefits from better-off pensioners.

However austerity measures introduced by David Cameron's government have led to significant cuts to care services for the elderly in Lancashire over recent years with a further 7% reduction announced last month (see report). Many have entirely lost their home care services. Increased charges have led to a sharp reduction in the numbers of vulnerable elderly people attending County Council day-care centres. Other respite care support for carers has also been reduced. Changes to NHS services have resulted in centralisation of patient services such as Dementia, moving them out of the area. Transport has become a core problem for the most vulnerable elderly and the friends and relatives (who are themselves usually elderly too) who support them. Cases of abuse and neglect in care homes caught between the demands of profit and costs are also on the rise.

Just under one million older people live in fuel poverty. The UK toll of excess deaths of elderly people due to cold weather is rising. For this winter it is expected to top 35,000, with cold-related illness putting increasing pressure on NHS services.  Inadequate heating levels at home can also result in stiffness, joint pain and impaired mobility, reducing coping capability and increasing the likelihood of falls.

A recent campaign by Lancaster City Council and the County Council's Welfare Rights Team found that almost half the over-75s they contacted struggled with the benefits system and were under-claiming their actual entitlement, to the average tune of £55 each a week. If you aren't up to speed on the internet, which can be a tough call for anyone with elderly eyes and hands and other age-related conditions, it can become impossible to keep abreast of changes to one's welfare entitlements (never mind fuel tariffs) as one's situation and needs change over time. Cuts to services also mean that the people who used to check and give advice, such as home care services, day care and social workers are less available to do so.

To contact the Lancaster District Pensioners’ Campaign Group e-mail: mjnlancs@yahoo.co.uk

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