The National Pensioners’ Annual Convention heard calls for all four UK nations to have Older People’s Commissioners as more are plunged into poverty.
The NPC’s first public conference since before Covid (yesterday, 21 Sept) was expert given evidence of how our oldest and most vulnerable are facing increasing hardship in the face of soaring prices and growing ageism.
Keynote speaker Lord George Foulkes, the Joint Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People, said it was time that England and Scotland had dedicated advocates for pensioners’ rights, as they have in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Backing the NPC’s continuing campaign for Older People’s Commissioners, Lord Foulkes said: “Heléna Herklots, the Welsh Commissioner who is doing a great job in Wales, is with us here today. It is beyond time that we followed Wales’ example in England and Scotland, and I call today on the UK Government and the Scottish Government to act on this at the first opportunity.”
Lord Foulkes said pensioner poverty is ‘a growing scandal of immense proportions’ and even if the government keeps it promise to re-introduce the Triple Lock to guarantee a state pension rise next spring, it will not make up for the erosion in the value of pensions.
He added: “Some in politics are challenging even that. They say pensioners are doing better than poor families. It is wicked in the extreme to set one poor group against another when the wealth of the very rich doubled during the pandemic and the curb on bankers’ bonuses is being lifted.”
NPC, the UK’s largest campaign group run for and by older people, met in Birmingham Council House to discuss Pensioner Poverty and Older People’s Rights. More than 150 delegates heard from experts from Age UK, Cash Action Group, Healthwatch England, the Centre for Ageing Better, Better Transport, Homes for All, National Federation for the Blind UK and the Institute for Development Studies.
Topics covered everything from the cost of food and fuel, inadequate pensions, poor housing, and disappearing services, ranging from difficulty in getting GP appointments and social care, to the push to end cash transactions, and the isolation caused by digital poverty of older people who do not or cannot use the internet. Birmingham City Councillor, Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care told delegates how the council has declared a ‘cost of living emergency’ and the steps they were taking to help those struggling to make ends meet.
Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary said: “We would like to thank all of our brilliant speakers who were given a warm welcome by NPC members from across the country. We would also extremely grateful to Birmingham City Council for all their assistance and to Lord Mayor Councillor Cornish JP for opening our event.
Jan added: “This first face to face Convention in three years galvanised our members to continue campaigning on behalf of pensioners, and particularly to see the appointment of Commissioners in England and Scotland.”