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Pensioners’  Manifesto 
Towards Dignity, Security and Fulfilment in Retirement



The creation of the first ever Pensioners’ Manifesto is a truly historic achievement. After months of debate, discussion and amendment involving pensioners and hundreds of their organisations, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has co-ordinated the production of a comprehensive and coherent set of policy demands, which were endorsed by the 2004 Pensioners’ Parliament and have widespread support amongst the nation’s older population.


Between now and the general election, pensioner groups across the country will be using the Manifesto to put pressure on all the political parties and their candidates to acknowledge and support the needs of older people by asking them to endorse its contents. The NPC will publish details of their responses so that the electorate will have the opportunity to consider that information before casting their votes.


With 11m people of pensionable age, and a very high proportion of them prepared to turn out in elections, the power of pensioners’ at the ballot box should not be underestimated.


This Pensioners’ Manifesto therefore puts the concerns of older people at the very heart of the political debate, and in doing so, helps take us a step closer towards securing dignity, security and fulfilment for both today’s pensioners and future generations. 


The task now is to do everything possible to help promote, publicise and generate support for its aims. The campaign starts here.


Pensions and income

Since the index linking of the basic state pension to average earnings was abolished in 1980, its value has fallen by more than 30 a week for an individual and 50 a week for a couple. As a result, millions of pensioners now feel that their past contribution to the nation is being ignored.


Despite Britain having the fourth strongest economy in the world, one in five pensioners - over two million older people - still live at, or below, the level of income support. Millions more are struggling to meet the rising costs of living due to increased council tax and utility bills, and many are unable to afford even the basics of a civilised lifestyle such as buying new clothes, taking a holiday or maintaining their homes.


In the face of this, the government has used widespread means-testing - through the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG), followed by the Pension Credit - to target extra money at those on low incomes.


However, means-testing is ineffective at getting help to those who need it most because of the low take-up level, and demeaning for older people who have to parade their poverty in order to receive a few extra pounds.


Those hardest hit tend to be the over 75s, the vast majority of whom are women who spent years bringing up families, caring or working in badly paid or part-time jobs. These efforts have been historically undervalued and many do not now have an occupational pension or enough National Insurance contributions to qualify for a full state pension. As a consequence, together with many ethnic elders who also suffered similar problems during their working lives, they are forced to rely on means-tested benefits. 


A further concern over the coming decades is the government’s plan to reduce the proportion of the nation’s wealth (Gross Domestic Product) it spends on pensions by more than 20%, despite the growth of the pensioner population. As a result, we are likely to see a pensions’ poverty time-bomb for future generations.


Over the last twenty-five years the value of the basic state pension relative to average incomes has also declined, SERPS has been weakened and occupational pensions have become less generous, while private pensions based solely on the performance of the stock market have offered little security.


The problem of financial hardship for today’s pensioners will therefore be even more serious for the pensioners of tomorrow, and a failure to act now could have a disastrous effect in the future.


These developments have therefore strengthened the argument for a decent basic and second state pension - financed from the existing 30bn surplus in the National Insurance Fund, increased contributions, Treasury grants and other measures - that can offer security, predictability and dignity to all. Taking steps to achieve this is now the biggest social and political challenge facing the politicians and we urge them to act.




  1. The state pension should remain securely based upon National Insurance and continue under state control.

  2. The basic state pension should be raised to the level of the Guarantee Credit - previously known as MIG - (105.45 for a single pensioner and 160.95 for a couple per week in April 2004) as an immediate step towards providing a basic non-means-tested income in retirement.

  3. The basic state pension should be uprated annually in line with average earnings or inflation (Retail Price Index), whichever is the greater, to enable pensioners to share in the growing prosperity of the nation.

  4. The full basic state pension should be paid to all men and women of pensionable age, by extending National Insurance contribution credits to those who have been unable to build up a full contributions’ record due to low pay, part-time working, caring and other domestic responsibilities.

  5. Over the next five years the basic state pension should be        incrementally increased to a level of one-third average male earnings.

  6. The 25p a week age addition at 80 should be increased to 25 and uprated annually in line with average earnings or inflation (Retail Price Index) whichever is the greater, in recognition of the increased costs of living independently with age.

  7. The State Second Pension (S2P) should remain earnings-related and based on the SERPS (State Earnings Related Pension Scheme) revalued earnings formula to ensure a fair deal to those workers, particularly women, whose careers do not conform to traditional work patterns. Contributions to the S2P should also attract tax relief.

  8. The index-linking of occupational pensions should be set at 5% and there should be no reduction in survivors’ benefits.   

  9. A surviving partner’s entitlement to SERPS should be reinstated at 100%.

  10. There should be no legal requirement to join an occupational pension scheme that lacks a guaranteed return or safeguard against loss of value.

  11. The personal tax allowance for all those of pensionable age should be raised to enable pensioners to keep more of their savings.

  12. Where advantageous the married couple’s allowance should be maintained for all of pensionable age.

  13. The state pensions of those expatriates living in countries not covered by reciprocal social security arrangements with Britain should be uprated annually in line with those of pensioners living in the UK.

  14. The rules allowing for the state pension to be reduced after 52 weeks in hospital should be revoked.

  15. In recognition of the immediate financial difficulties faced by surviving pensioner partners, a bereavement grant of 200 should be made available.

  16. The annual Christmas bonus should be equal to one week’s full basic state pension. 



Health and care

How we look after our most vulnerable and frail citizens is a fundamental test of any civilised society. However, today many older people believe our health and social care system is failing to provide the comprehensive cradle to grave support through the NHS, that was originally promised.


A lack of available beds and the decline of care services in the home, have meant that older patients ready to be discharged from hospital, but not well enough to return home without care, have been insultingly described as ‘bed blockers’.


To address the problem, the government will fine local authorities if they delay in receiving discharged elderly patients - but there is little acknowledgement that this may lead to older people being returned into the community without the proper care and support they need.


In the past, it has been too readily assumed that the only way to get an older patient out of hospital quickly is by placing them in a residential care or nursing home. This has led to a growth in the residential home sector run as profit-making businesses, but largely financed out of public funds. The average cost of care is around 500 a week and, in 2003, 70,000 pensioners had to sell their homes in order to pay these charges.


Care home staff are very often underpaid, overworked and poorly trained, the quality of life in many homes is shocking - with few opportunities to remain active - and because of the inadequate system of registration and inspection, a disturbing incidence of abuse of residents has been emerging. When homes are forced to close, evictions and transfers of residents to other locations also cause suffering and have tragic consequences.


The government’s decision to pay for some nursing care, but leave personal care costs to the individual, has only made the situation worse by creating an artificial dividing line between those with illnesses which are treated in hospital and receive free care, and those in nursing homes suffering from forms of dementia, who still face charges.


In addition, whilst 80% of older people want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, many are struggling to do so because local authorities have cut back or increased charges on those services that would enable individuals to receive care at home. As a result, more pressure is put upon the millions who act as carers for older people - many of whom are pensioners themselves.


The most damning evidence on the health of the older generation however, rests with the unacceptable number of winter deaths recorded amongst the over 60s. Figures show that in 2002, 22,000 pensioners died of cold related illnesses. This has got to stop.


Like many people, pensioners are also concerned about the availability, quality and future of NHS provision due to lack of resources, the introduction of Foundation hospitals and increasing privatisation.


In addition, the contracting-out of cleaning services within the NHS has also led to a greater concern over hospital hygiene. As a result, many believe that the incidence of MRSA (Methycillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) has increased - with tragic effects on older people who are already likely to have a depleted immune system. This must not be allowed to continue.


A comprehensive free public health care system is therefore essential for providing services that guarantee the most vulnerable members of our society receive the dignity, respect and care they deserve whenever they need it.




  1. All those of pensionable age should be provided with a free annual comprehensive health check, as part of a preventative health programme, including dentistry, eye-sight, hearing, chiropody, diabetes, and cancer screening based on best practice.

  2. All health care, treatment and aids to support day-to-day living should be provided without delay, free of charge and based upon clinical need without regard to age, sex, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

  3. The needs of older people suffering from mental illness, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease should attract the same resources as are available to sufferers below pensionable age.

  4. Pensioners discharged from hospital should, where appropriate, be resettled in their own home with the necessary medical and social care.

  5. Good quality and affordable home care services and home adaptations should be provided to enable older people to remain independent in their own homes for as long as possible. However, where long-term residential or nursing home care is needed it should be within the public or not-for-profit sector.

  6. Pensioners should not need to sell their homes in order to pay for care. All long-term care and accommodation should be provided free regardless of the setting and the artificial distinction between nursing and personal care should end in line with the Sutherland report.

  7. Before the closure of a residential or nursing home there should be an independent review. In the event of a closure, appropriate notice and alternative accommodation should be offered which is acceptable to the resident concerned.

  8. All staff should be properly vetted before they begin working with older people, trained in the care and rehabilitation of the elderly, and receive decent terms and conditions for the important and valuable jobs they perform.

  9. Primary Care Trusts should resource and publicise an independent advocacy service for vulnerable older people to ensure their concerns are properly addressed.

  10. The recommendations contained within the recent Health Select Committee report on Elder Abuse should be implemented as a matter of urgency.

  11. Residential and nursing homes and private subcontractors should be subjected to more rigorous and frequent unannounced inspections to improve the standards and quality of care available.

  12. Residential and nursing homes should provide suitable accommodation for couples, including same sex partners.

  13. Cultural customs, differing religious beliefs and dietary requirements should be recognised and respected in all residential and nursing homes.

  14. Carer’s Allowance should be paid in addition to any state pension individuals may receive, in recognition of the valuable work they do in caring for many vulnerable members of our society.

  15. Disability Living Allowance should be paid to pensioners on the same terms and at the same rates as to younger people with disabilities.

  16. An over 60s Winter Fuel Allowance of 300 per household should be statutory and annually increased in line with the rising costs of fuel.

  17. The Winter Fuel Allowance should be paid each November to all those who would be aged 60 or over by the following April 1.

  18. Legislation should be introduced to prevent the disconnection of the electricity, gas, water supply or telephone to a household where a pensioner or disabled person lives.

  19. Hospices should be funded in full for the services they provide on behalf of the NHS, so that any charitable funds can be used to enhance this service or go towards research and development.


Transport and mobility

The majority of pensioners rely on the use of public transport to support their need for independence and to combat social isolation, but many older people have concerns about the accessibility, affordability, reliability and safety of such services.


Those with mobility problems and people living in rural areas are often the most isolated amongst the pensioner population, with limited or non-existent bus services and inaccessible train and coach stations. Decisions relating to the frequency and routes of such services often fail to take account of the views of older people and their representatives.


For those able to use buses, the Transport Act 2000 introduced a statutory maximum half-price fare on bus travel for the over 60s and was welcomed by many as a reasonable first step towards free nationwide travel for all pensioners and the disabled.


Unfortunately, some local authorities have used this legislation to justify the withdrawal of token schemes in areas with inadequate bus services, increase the cost of pre-paid travel concessions, prevent cross-boundary travel or change the existing start times from 9am to 9.30am - often without consultation.


However, pensioners in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and areas such as London, the West Midlands and Merseyside all benefit from free travel.


It is therefore now imperative that a truly nationwide scheme be introduced that would allow free movement across Britain, eliminate the current ‘postcode-lottery’ in concessionary travel and tackle the anomalies in policy between different local authorities.


Such a scheme would not only improve the general well-being of millions of pensioners by increasing their mobility and helping to combat isolation and loneliness, but would also help local economies and be good for the environment.





  1. A nationwide travel scheme should be introduced that enables pensioners, disabled people and their escorts, where necessary, to travel on all buses, coaches, ferries, trams, tubes/metro and trains free of charge.

  2. Free travel services such as dial-a-ride, community buses and taxi-card systems should be provided to serve local communities where an integrated nationwide travel scheme is inaccessible.

  3. All taxi and car hire services should be properly regulated to ensure that older people can travel safely at any time.

  4. Carers and medical staff providing services to older people in the community should be allowed to use bus lanes to travel to work.

  5. Local authorities should provide adequate free parking facilities for the disabled.

  6. The upper age limit to the Motability Scheme should be abolished.

  7. Legislation should be enforced to ensure bus and train operators improve the design and security of their vehicles and buildings to make them safe and accessible for pensioners and disabled people.

  8. The frequency and accessibility of public transport services for pensioners and disabled people to and from local hospitals should be improved and publicised.

  9. Timetables and other travel information should be available in a format that is easily accessible - particularly to those with visual impairments.


Neighbourhood and community

The quality of older people’s lives is not only affected by their income and health - but also by the environment in which they live.


Nearly one in five older people live in housing that is structurally unfit or in bad repair. A further 70% of older households do not have central heating and feel the cold. Those in areas with high levels of poverty and poor housing often experience the worst problems.


In addition, the erosion of public services and amenities in both urban and rural areas inevitably has a disproportionate impact on pensioners, who often do not have access to private transport. Life is made very difficult if local high street pharmacies and post offices are closed or re-located to out of town retail parks.


In the past, local authorities provided day centres where older people, who otherwise would have been confined to their homes, could socialise and make new friends. Transport was provided for those with mobility problems. Now access to such centres is limited and as a result, increasing numbers of older people are likely to become isolated, lonely and depressed.


The limited availability and poor quality of public toilets often make going out difficult for many older people. Public seating, dropped kerbs and even pavements are also important aspects of creating a more comfortable lifestyle, along with access to social and cultural facilities.


The fear of crime, more than actual crime, also makes older people feel unsafe in their communities. Adequate street lighting and local warden patrols are important factors in giving pensioners peace of mind.


The funding of essential local services should be the responsibility of the nation as a whole and not rely upon the ‘colour’ of a local authority or depend upon the prosperity of the particular locality. Under the current system, pensioners are receiving huge council tax bills which take a large part of their pension.


As a result, many are now faced with the prospect of having to cut back on their essential weekly outgoings or move from homes they have created over their working lives.




  1. Council tax should be abolished and essential local services on which pensioners depend should be financed through a fairer and more equitable system based on government grants, increased localised business rates and income tax.

  2. Good quality and affordable housing, co-housing, sheltered accommodation and supported living at home should be made available to all older people.

  3. Equity release schemes should be investigated and regulated to protect older applicants from exploitation.

  4. Measures should be taken to ensure that urban and rural post offices and high street pharmacies are maintained and improved in recognition that the accessibility of such local services is essential to the lives of many older people.

  5. The basic state pension should continue to be available from local post offices on a weekly basis on the presentation of a pension book for all those who wish to collect it in this way.

  6. Installation and rental charges on telephones should be abolished for all those of pensionable age as a way of improving security and combating social isolation.

  7. Standing/rental charges on all utilities should be abolished for those of pensionable age.

  8. Older people should be consulted about and engaged in community crime fighting initiatives via Community Safety Partnerships, Local Criminal Justice Boards, Neighbourhood Renewal Projects and other partnership agencies - particularly with regard to crimes that disproportionately affect older people such as bogus callers.

  9. Local authorities should have particular regard to the needs of older people in the provision and maintenance of public facilities such as seating, toilets, footpaths and pavements.

  10. Local authorities should provide well equipped and attractive pensioner ‘drop-in’ services and social centres which can offer meeting facilities for local pensioners’ organisations.

  11. Local, metropolitan and regional authorities should liaise with theatres, cinemas and other artistic bodies to arrange for their facilities and events to be more affordable and accessible to older people.


Active citizenship


Britain, like many other countries, has an ageing population. By 2021 the number of people over 60 will have risen from 10.8 million to 12.7 million. Yet despite already being almost a quarter of the entire adult population, older people often feel decisions are made that affect their lives without ever being asked for their opinion.


If we only consider the value of individuals in relation to their ability to be economically active - pensioners will continue to be regarded as second-class citizens, who are a burden on the nation’s resources. This has got to change and ageism must become unacceptable. Discrimination against black and ethnic elders or older gay men and lesbians must also cease.


However, tackling ageism must not be used to justify increasing the age at which the pensions are paid. Whilst the removal of age discrimination in the workplace is promoted as a way of giving individuals the choice to work beyond normal retirement age, the reality is that real choice in retirement only comes through having financial security – which our modern wealth producing economy can afford to provide. Any moves to raise the age at which the state and occupational pensions are paid would therefore place an unacceptable burden on today’s poorest workers and those with very demanding jobs.


The community should recognise the importance of older people’s largely unpaid activity as councillors or magistrates, in charity work, and as carers, or grandparents providing childcare. This is an extremely valuable contribution to society - as well as to their own well-being.


But the infrastructure must be in place to encourage this active citizenship. Older people must have access to education, information and new technology if they are to play their part fully and we should recognise that after a lifetime of work - all individuals should be entitled to a decent period of retirement to pursue other interests.


We must therefore create a society in which the views of older people are respected, their contributions rewarded and their experienced valued.




  1. National, regional and local decision making bodies should always consult and take into account the views of all older people.

  2. Core-funding without conditions should be made available to the National Pensioners Convention as the umbrella group for the country’s pensioner movement in recognition of the importance of a healthy and functioning democracy with an exchange of differing views.

  3. Legislation should be introduced to prohibit age and sex discrimination in the provision of all goods and services in the public and private sectors, including annuities, insurance and other financial products.

  4. There should be no increase in the ages at which the state and occupational pensions are currently paid.

  5. Local and national media should reflect the diversity of older people’s lives and avoid stereotyping, patronising, ridiculing or making ageist assumptions about their interests and concerns.

  6. Education and leisure facilities should be provided free to all older people in the community.

  7. Free TV licences, internet access and training should be made available to all those of pensionable age in recognition of the principle that access to information is an essential part of a pluralistic and informed society.




Estimated annual net cost of key Manifesto proposals   

        Raising the basic state pension for every pensioner over 65 to 105.45 a week (1)        


        Free nationwide bus travel (2)     


        Free nursing and personal care (3)


        Christmas bonus raised to one week’s pension (79)   


        Winter Fuel Payment of 300 per pensioner household   


        Free TV licence for all pensioners




It is recognised that to meet these costs it would be necessary to re-allocate existing funds and raise additional funds. For example:   


        National Insurance Fund surplus                                                30bn


        Abolishing the Upper Earnings Limit on National Insurance     5bn


        1% increase in National Insurance contributions                        8bn


        Tax relief on private pensions                                                   14bn

  Note: Although tax relief and rebates have been justified as providing incentives to save through private pensions, half the benefit is received by the top 10% of taxpayers and a quarter by the top 2.5%. The taxpayer is therefore subsidising high earners’ pensions to a greater extent than for the low-paid.




1. Written Parliamentary Answer, Hansard, 25 March 2004

This policy would end means-testing amongst today’s pensioners and be of particular benefit to women, 87% of which do not currently receive a full state pension based on their own contributions. To widen and enhance the future entitlement to National Insurance credits (as mentioned in item 4 of the Pensions and income section) there should also be:


        The abolition of the 25% rule that stops people with less than 10 years’ contributions getting any state pension

        A reduction in the lower earnings limit to enable low-paid workers to build up their entitlement to a basic state pension

        The provision for part years or part-time work to count towards contributions and a more flexible system of credits for carers


2. Written Parliamentary Answer, Hansard, 9 February 2004


3. With Respect to Old Age, Royal Commission on Long –Term Care,    

    March 1999





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