A number of key issues that Later Life Ambitions campaigns on have been in the news this week, including the long-term funding of social care, pensioner benefits and the future of the local post office.
LLA has been vocal in standing up for our views and beliefs in what support and opportunities older people need to lead full, ambitious lifestyles. This blog provides a brief overview of the debates that have taken place this week.
Rt Hon Damien Green MP (former First Secretary of State and often described as Theresa May’s closest friend in politics) published a report with the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank, setting out his views for the long term funding of adult social care. ‘Fixing the Care Crisis’ argues that the “current system is financially and politically unsustainable, opaque, unfair, and actively discourages local councils from investing in social care and housing for older people.” The report sets out that any reform of social care needs to:
It argues that the care system should adopt the model of the state pension – with the Government providing enough support for a decent standard of care via a new Universal Care Entitlement, while encouraging and incentivising people to top up this provision from their savings or housing wealth via a Care Supplement. The report concludes that the “result of this is a sustainable system likely to be supported both in Westminster and beyond – not least because it protects councils from the soaring costs of care.”
It also suggests methods to fill the immediate funding gap in the social care system, estimated at approximately £2.75 billion. These include, in decreasing order of preference:
LLA welcomes this constructive addition to the ongoing debate on adult social care. We support much of its analysis and its ambition, however are unconvinced by some of the proposals put forward for how a future system could be funded – such as taxing the winter fuel allowance.
LLA will continue to work with organisations such as Age UK to evaluate options for the funding of adult social care and engage extensively when (if!) the promised social care green paper is published.
The cross-party House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision has published a report, ‘Tackling intergenerational fairness’. It made a number of recommendations of interest to LLA:
While LLA recognises that society and the welfare state are underpinned by an implicit social contract between the generations, we reject the Committee’s call to remove the Triple Lock, phase out free TV licence and limit eligibility for free bus passes and Winter Fuel Payments. Making pensioners poorer will not address intergenerational fairness.
We believe these proposals are dangerously short-sighted. By providing pensioners with a small safety net, we enable older people to participate fully in society, travel to see loved ones, volunteer, keep their homes warm and access vital companionship through their TV. The Committee’s failure to recognise that pensioners are not merely a drain on society is symptomatic of a wider problem with the way in which older people are seen.
The Committee has failed to adequately consider the inequality within generations, resulting in a picture that is both overly simplistic and unnecessarily divisive. It is not accurate to class all older people as being better off than younger generations, nor is it accurate to claim that all younger people are struggling to get by. While there are certain trends that can be identified, this understanding is crucial to the intergenerational debate and has been unfortunately ignored by the Committee.
Workers today are ‘pensioners in waiting’. Like the Committee, we are concerned about the reduction in quality of retirement provisions, the uncertainty of the job market and the increasing cost of house prices. However, we believe the headline grabbing measures which the Committee has chosen to focus on in this report risk distracting from the bigger structural changes needed across the UK to help people of all ages, whether old or young.
LLA will continue to engage with the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision to argue for a reasoned and well-considered approach to intergenerational fairness.
Future of the Post Office Network
A debate took place in the House of Commons on the future of the Post Office Network. LLA briefed MPs ahead of this, arguing that the Post Office Network is more than a commercial entity and serves a distinct social purpose. We urged MPs to call on the government to commit to a programme that ensures no Post Office closures and urgently renew its funding of the network to safeguard its future. We were delighted that our views were mentioned by MPs during this debate.
Post Office branches are hugely important to older people across the UK. The services offered are a lifeline as they are a place to access pensions, benefits, pay bills, get advice and to socialise. Older people and those on low incomes make greater use of cash and banking services, and vulnerable groups and remote rural residents use Post Offices for informal community services like support and information, or as a place to meet other local residents and friends. Our full campaign objectives for the future of the Post Office Network are:
Away from Brexit, there is clearly still a lot of important political debate and decision-making taking place. LLA is working hard to use the collective voice of 250,000 pensioners to make the case for reforms and changes that to make a positive difference for older people.