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Pensioners fight ageist Tory cuts
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) will hold its annual 'Pensioners' Parliament' from 14 to 16 June in Blackpool. NPC activist and Socialist Party member Val Pearce explains some of the issues facing pensioners in austerity Britain.
At a previous Pensioners' Parliament, NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said: "This idea that the country's economy is struggling because an army of millionaire pensioners are joyriding with their free bus passes is absolute nonsense." Dot, how right you were.
Pensioners have been under constant attack for the last six years. We even had the now-retired MP Chris Huhne, previously a failed Liberal Democrat leadership candidate, writing that "someone needs to fight the selfish, short-sighted old."
It is about time we stopped being the whipping boy for the Tories' austerity policies. We, the members of the National Pensioners Convention, should fight for the truth to be told.
Pensioners, like every other group in society, are made up of individuals with different views, different shapes and different needs. We are not a group of people who have passed their sell-by date and become non-contributors to our families and society in general.
During the month of May, two reports were published that showed some of the reality of what it means to be old in Britain today.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman published 'A report of investigations into unsafe discharge from hospital'. This looked at a number of cases and showed in graphic detail how hospitals were wrongly discharging some old and vulnerable people.
They were sent home alone, unable to cope, and often ended up back in hospital only hours or days later. The reasons for this were the lack of home care plans, relatives and carers not being informed, and in some cases discharge without being clinically fit to leave.
A research report from the charity Independent Age was published only a day or two after. This report showed nearly a million pensioners aged over 75 are living in poverty.
Their average income is £59 a week less than younger pensioners. An estimated 750,000 over-75s are entitled to 'pension credit' benefits but do not claim them.
Within this age group, 23% of women, 24% of single pensioners and around a quarter of private renters are living in poverty. This shows the myth of wealthy pensioners is just that: a myth. There are huge variations of incomes, with hundreds of thousands of older pensioners living below the poverty line.
Far from being a burden, pensioners every year add £49 billion more to the economy than we receive in pensions, care and benefits. We pay tax either on our income or indirectly, and no account is taken of our hours of unpaid work. We volunteer to maintain essential local services threatened by cuts, or help to look after grandchildren and other family members.
The time is right for pensioners, workers and young people to stand together. Let's fight for a living wage, living pension and living benefits for all; for decent, genuinely affordable council housing for all, and rent controls in the private sector; and against Tory and Blairite cuts to services and jobs.
In The Socialist 8 June 2016:
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