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‘Don’t fall for the phoney generation war’

The real inequality is between the very rich and the rest of society, argues activist Dot Gibson of Islington Pensioners Forum and the National Pensioners Convention

05 May, 2017 — By Dot Gibson

Pensioners are pressing for greater NHS funding

THE House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee delivered its “Intergenerational Fairness” inquiry report in November 2016.

It said that: “The millennial generation, born between 1981 and 2000, faces being the first in modern times to be financially worse off than its predecessors… children are twice as likely as pensioners to be living in poverty”

Do they conclude that capitalism is a failed system?

No. Their answer is that pensioners are to blame.

Right-wing politicians, think-tanks and media commentators say that pensioners escape austerity at the expense of younger generations – from the shortage of housing to the lack of hospital beds. They say “baby-boomers” have deliberately accumulated considerable wealth (their homes) at the expense of their children.

They encourage a phoney war between the generations, when the real inequality is between the very rich and the rest of society.

The five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population.

Plans to take away benefits such as the pension “triple lock”, the bus pass, or the winter fuel allowance will not help younger people.

They are another way of rolling back the welfare state for everyone.

Clearly there need to be profound changes in how we structure our economy and distribute wealth.

The National Pensioners Convention’s general election manifesto makes demands aimed at ensuring that all men and women, today’s and future pensioners, have dignity and security in retirement.

We demand a state pension set above the official poverty level, at around £200 a week and linked to the triple lock of the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent.

Dot Gibson

Many argue that the triple lock is too generous, but even after six years, at £122.30 a week, the basic state pension is still less than it would have been had the Thatcher government not broken its link with earnings.

One in six older people live below the poverty line and up to six million have an income of less than £11,000 a year; younger generations must work longer, pay more and receive less in their pension. The simplest and fairest way forward is for the state pension to be 70 per cent of the living wage

We call for greater funding for the National Health Service, an end to privatisation in the health service and a national care system funded from general taxation that is free at the point of delivery and without means-testing.

Islington Pensioners’ Forum has a petition to take this demand forward.

The NHS and social care are inextricably linked, but those with savings (including their home) of £23,250 must self-fund their care and the Department of Health records that 35,000 family homes are sold every year to pay for this; 1.8million people, dependent on local authorities for care, no longer get the help they need because of government cuts.

We say that universal pensioner benefits should be maintained; such as free bus travel, the winter fuel allowance (increased to £500) and a free TV licence for the over-75s.

Research by the WRVS in March 2011 showed that every year older people contribute £40billion towards the economy above what they receive in pensions, care and benefits (estimated to rise to £75billion by 2030), but in the past five years over 141,000 pensioners have died from cold-related illnesses.

We are always hearing about loneliness and isolation – without the bus pass and the free TV licence this problem would be far worse.

Other NPC manifesto demands are for:

• affordable homes and recognition of the barriers to downsizing that older people face;

• legal protection for older people from all forms of elder abuse to ensure dignity and raise standards of care; and

• a Brexit that safeguards the rights of UK pensioners living in European Union countries.

The NPC says: Down with divide and rule!

Unite the generations for social justice!

For NPC Manifesto, www.npcuk.org

For Islington Pensioners Forum social care petition, http://tiny.cc/crisis-social-care

• Dot Gibson is secretary of the Islington Pensioners’ Forum and deputy general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention.

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