The beginning of 2021 was difficult for all of us, with a second wave of the coronavirus causing further lockdowns and the picture for our economy looking more uncertain than ever. As the first quarter progressed, we saw some hope with the announcement of the roadmap and the scaling-up of a vaccine programme.
Later Life Ambitions (LLA) began the year ready to represent our members’ interests in the debate around Covid-19. In particular, we were concerned about the welfare of some older people after a long period of shielding which had led to loneliness; the risk of cuts to pensioner benefits such as the triple lock or travel concessions to pay for the costs of the pandemic and the rise in online scams targeting those moving online for the first time.
As we’d all spent more time inside of our homes in recent months, the future of housing in later life remained high on our priorities. In December 2020, LLA worked with the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) to launch a report calling for better housing options for older people. As part of the report, we conducted a survey of our members and found that nearly 90% of people think the Government should widen housing options for older people. We also found that more than half of older people are interested in moving but that a lack of good local downsizing options prevented them.
Following a successful launch event, we continued our work by collaborating with retirement housing provider, McCarthy and Stone to call on the Government to extend the stamp duty exemption for older people (and others) moving to housing more suited to their needs. This would free up larger properties for young families and help reduce the pressures being caused by the housing crisis. We also signed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, highlighting that stamp duty has prevented people from downsizing in the past, and extending the tax holiday would “unblock the housing chain”, boosting transactions and Treasury revenues. You can read more about the letter in The Telegraph.
In early March, the Government delivered its 2021 Budget, which did not mention the triple lock on pensions at all. We remain concerned that there has been no firm commitment to protect this, as there has been previously, but were relieved nonetheless of its protection in the short-term. We will continue campaigning for the protection of the triple lock whilst the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak seeks to rebalance the economy as the UK recovers from the pandemic.
The important role of social care has been made clear during the pandemic, with social care workers on the frontline, and yet we are still waiting on the Government to produce a long-term plan to sustainably fund adult social care. We believe that social care workers should be paid a decent and fair wage and that no older person should have to pay extortionate amounts to live with dignity and safety in their later lives. We responded along these lines to the influential House of Common’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care. We highlighted the need for a national care system that is free for all at the point of use, funded through a mechanism that pools financial risk. The Committee will use our evidence alongside others to form a report, which will make recommendations to Government and hold them to account on this incredibly important issue.
The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many people and services online, and whilst that has allowed many of our members to connect with family and friends through the multiple lockdowns, for some the experience hasn’t been wholly positive. Unfortunately, the move to digital has led to an increase in online scams as opportunity scammers have been targeting a wide range of people including older persons, and defrauding them huge sums of money. We have focused much of our campaign work on combatting fraud and other threats that our members face on the internet. This has included reaching out to a number of influential MPs regarding the inclusion of financial harms in the forthcoming Online Harms Bill. We have also learned more about the Government’s Economic Crime Strategy Board, as well as its Digital Inclusion Strategy and we are looking to engage with the Government further on these issues and understand more about how it will ensure that older people feel confident and safe online.
We have begun work on plans to refresh our website, so that our members and supports can have access to all of work. We are looking forward to unveiling our new site very soon, watch this space!