For immediate use: 22 November 2017
Pensioners dismayed at Chancellor’s lack of action to tackle social care crisis, the demand for more suitable housing or fuel poverty
Britain’s biggest pensioners’ organisation, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has expressed its dismay at the lack of any announcements from the Chancellor in today’s Budget statement that would benefit older people.
Like millions of older people, the NPC was hoping for some further details on plans to tackle the growing crisis in social care, a programme for tackling the scandal of fuel poverty and needless winter deaths among pensioners and the urgent need for more suitable senior housing.
Jan Shortt (double t), NPC general secretary said: “It appears that it’s not just the Chancellor’s cars which are driver less – so too is his policy on older people. There was no promise of much needed funding for social care or any measures that could help pensioners to move to smaller properties, but the biggest omission was the fact that Mr Hammond never mentioned the 34,300 older people that died last winter from the cold. In a country which boasts the sixth strongest economy in the world, the fact that tens of thousands of older people die every winter is a national scandal.”
On housing Ms Shortt said: “The picture on specialist housing for older people is one of under supply. We need a 75% increase in specialist properties by 2035 if we are to meet a growing older population. This represents just over 51,280 dwellings a year for the next 18 years; well below the current building rate. In 2014, just 1% of UK new builds were bungalows, down from 7% in 1996. An urgent house building programme is therefore needed to match this under supply with the growing demand, and a stamp duty holiday for older people right sizing in retirement into homes under £200,000 could release up to 111,000 properties for younger families. The Chancellor certainly could have been more imaginative with his housing policy.”
On social care Ms Shortt said: “The social care system has suffered over £5bn worth of cuts since 2010 – and over one million older people no longer get the help they need, staff turnover is high, the quality of care is sometimes questionable and there is a distinct lack of dignity in the system for both staff and residents. A Green Paper that’s been promised next summer is simply too little, too late for hundreds of thousands of older people and their families. The Chancellor should have offered something now.”
On fuel poverty and winter deaths Ms Shortt said: “Today we learned that 34,300 older people died last winter because of cold related illnesses. This is the second highest number in the last five years and represents 285 deaths a day or 11 deaths an hour. Successive governments have simply ignored the problem of winter deaths among the older population and seem to have a policy of crossing their fingers and hoping things will improve. The fact that the Chancellor didn’t even have the courage to mention the issue today, or give any details as to how the government is going to tackle the issue, is quite unbelievable. The key to tackling winter deaths is to make sure older people have got a well-insulated, warm home and the income needed to pay the fuel bills. This is a basic requirement of what a decent society should do, and the today the Chancellor has failed in this duty.”