Towards Dignity, Security and Fulfilment
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
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
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.
The state pension should
remain securely based upon National Insurance and continue under
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.
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.
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
Over the next five years the
basic state pension should be incrementally increased to a
level of one-third average male earnings.
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.
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.
The index-linking of
occupational pensions should be set at 5% and there should be no
reduction in survivors’ benefits.
A surviving partner’s
entitlement to SERPS should be reinstated at 100%.
There should be no legal
requirement to join an occupational pension scheme that lacks a
guaranteed return or safeguard against loss of value.
The personal tax allowance for
all those of pensionable age should be raised to enable pensioners
to keep more of their savings.
Where advantageous the married
couple’s allowance should be maintained for all of pensionable
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.
The rules allowing for the
state pension to be reduced after 52 weeks in hospital should be
In recognition of the
immediate financial difficulties faced by surviving pensioner
partners, a bereavement grant of £200 should be made available.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pensioners discharged from
hospital should, where appropriate, be resettled in their own home
with the necessary medical and social care.
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
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.
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
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.
Primary Care Trusts should
resource and publicise an independent advocacy service for
vulnerable older people to ensure their concerns are properly
The recommendations contained
within the recent Health Select Committee report on Elder Abuse
should be implemented as a matter of urgency.
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.
Residential and nursing homes
should provide suitable accommodation for couples, including same
Cultural customs, differing
religious beliefs and dietary requirements should be recognised
and respected in all residential and nursing homes.
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.
Disability Living Allowance
should be paid to pensioners on the same terms and at the same
rates as to younger people with disabilities.
An over 60s Winter Fuel
Allowance of £300 per household should be statutory and annually
increased in line with the rising costs of fuel.
The Winter Fuel Allowance
should be paid each November to all those who would be aged 60 or
over by the following April 1.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
All taxi and car hire services
should be properly regulated to ensure that older people can
travel safely at any time.
Carers and medical staff
providing services to older people in the community should be
allowed to use bus lanes to travel to work.
Local authorities should
provide adequate free parking facilities for the disabled.
The upper age limit to the
Motability Scheme should be abolished.
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.
The frequency and
accessibility of public transport services for pensioners and
disabled people to and from local hospitals should be improved and
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
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.
and affordable housing, co-housing, sheltered accommodation and
supported living at home should be made available to all older
Equity release schemes
should be investigated and regulated to protect older applicants
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.
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.
Installation and rental
charges on telephones should be abolished for all those of
pensionable age as a way of improving security and combating
on all utilities should be abolished for those of pensionable age.
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.
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.
authorities should provide well equipped and attractive pensioner
‘drop-in’ services and social centres which can offer meeting
facilities for local pensioners’ organisations.
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.
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
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.
National, regional and
local decision making bodies should always consult and take into
account the views of all older people.
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.
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.
There should be no
increase in the ages at which the state and occupational pensions
are currently paid.
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.
Education and leisure
facilities should be provided free to all older people in the
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
Estimated annual net cost of key Manifesto proposals
Raising the basic state pension for every pensioner over
65 to £105.45 a week
nationwide bus travel (2)
nursing and personal care (3)
Christmas bonus raised to one week’s pension (£79)
Fuel Payment of £300 per pensioner household
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
Upper Earnings Limit on National Insurance 5bn
1% increase in National
Tax relief on private
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:
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
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,