Britain's pensioners are among the poorest in the EU, especially compared to Western Europe. There are over a million single women pensioners below the poverty line, millions relying on pension credit and benefits to keep them alive, and the majority of pensioners have an income below £12k per year. As we are the 5th richest country in the world, this is a national disgrace alongside the fact that there are millions of children living in families who earn under or near the poverty line. The impact of austerity, the cuts to benefits, the continued failure for wages to even reach the same level (adjusted for inflation) as 2008 and the rise of gig economy and zero-hours contracts means that for the majority of people living and working in the UK, life is hard and getting harder, for all ages and every generation.
We need to be building a UK in which income and wealth fairness, justice and equality is our prime concern and for older people to both defend our rights to a decent retirement while joining other generations to fight for better living and working conditions, this means bringing in fair taxation for the richest, the 1% and especially 0.1% on their wealth and income, by taxing the global companies - especially the largest Internet companies - so that they pay the same as the rest of us.
What this should also mean is that the Tory think tanks - like the wrongly named Parliamentary Intergenerational Fairness & Provision Select Committee's Report on Tackling Intergenerational Unfairnessto stop trying to blame the older generation for the poverty of the young. It is a class issues, spread across every generation, but that is exactly why they want to shift the blame onto the old.
This report is shaming to the government, the Tories, our tax and benefits system, we need to join with others to fight for our universal right for adequate income, housing, health, employment and education.
So now we know what the right wing Tory Brexit coup is really about - removing our basic rights and protections. Age and employment equality, consumer rights, protections for tenants and those living in tower blocks, protections over health and food standards, adequate pensions, environmental protections= all these things are under threat, and many of the rights we do currently have come from our being part of the EU, which is the real driving force for this British Right-wing Elitist Xenophobic Imbecilic Takeover (BREXIT). As part of their plan to make the UK a tax and money laundering haven for global billionaires this new ultra-right government needs to reduce our incomes, and our benefits, and pensions is just one part of this.
For Ian Duncan Smith's right wing think tank, raising the retirement age to 70 and then till 75 is part and parcel of this attack on our basic incomes, so that as for the last 9 years we ordinary people will bear the brunt and work on minimal incomes until we drop dead, while the rich elite continue to live a life of rich entitlement. We must do everything we can to unite around fighting this, maintaining state pensions at a reasonable level from 67 at the latest.
Amber Rudd should not have betrayed older women over their pensions.
Positive Ageing in London (PAiL) and Wise Age are both supporting the campaign by WASPI to force the government to respect their rights and rescind the forced rise in the pension age for women from 60 to 66 by 2020. This precipitous move effectively has forced many women without due notice to either live off benefits or be forced to carry on working for an extra 6 years.
Chris Walsh Chair of PAiL and Chief Executive of Wise Age said
'It is a disgrace that Amber Rudd, the then DWP minister has rejected the demands by WASPI for natural justice and has effectively forced women to live in comparative poverty or carry on working beyond their anticipated retirement age. This shows a complete lack of empathy for other women or an understanding of the situation millions of older women in the UK are facing - namely poverty.
This is part of a wider problem that older people are increasingly being picked on as the people responsible for the poverty of younger people, when the real culprits are the Government's brutal pursuit of austerity and lack of commitment to helping increase the income of working and poorer people, focusing only on reducing taxes for the very richest.
The reality for over a million women pensioners is that they live below the poverty line and over 60% of all pensioners exist on an income below the tax threshold of £12,500.
Instead of blaming older people for the impoverishment of the young, blame the Government's policies which have led to the wages of ordinary people still below 2008 levels while allowing the richest to increase their wealth by double or triple over the same period, mostly tax free.
Companies are still able to exploit the labour forces, trade unions are banned in many companies and the iniquitous use of zero hours contracts extends to even more people.
There should be a freeze on raising the pension age above 65 until there are a majority of people aged 64 in work, which is not currently the case. What in fact is happening is that yet again older people are being forced to either work longer and longer or live in poverty on benefits when they should be and have paid for a decent pension.
We seniors need to step up our demands for a decent minimum income for all - including pensioners and we fully support the actions that campaigning groups like WASPI and also the National Pensioners Convention are taking to fight the removal of free TV licences for all over 75s.’
Final Report by Chris Walsh (Chief Exec – Wise Age ) on Resourcing Older People’s Employment Support ( ROPES) Project, delivered by Wise Age Ltd, funded by Trust for London.
This is the end of the 2016 – 2018 ROPES project contract which was generously funded by Trust for London (TFL) . It is also the culmination of 2 year’s previous contracted work funded by TFL in 2014-2015. This is my Chief Exec’s summary of the project and should be read in conjunction with our Independent Evaluators report on the project.
The aim of the ROPES programme was to run a ‘Training the Trainers’ programme to help develop the awareness, expertise and ability to deliver support by London Voluntary and community organisations, in the fields of Age and Employment support to over 50s needing employment and self-employment.
This programme has proved to be a great success as we have been able to actively train and support over 80 voluntary and community sector organisations and individuals that included organisations from every borough that the programme targeted. They were given 3 days training, covering all aspects of the situation and barriers facing older people; the ageist myths that employers hold; plus the benefits that older workers bring and the benefits that age diversity brings to employers. We provided templates which each beneficiary organisation could use and customise to help them evaluate, register, update and monitor client progress. We then used and passed on our 20 years of experience in working with older people needing employability training and support and explained the specific and necessary requirements that older learners need, offering templates for delivering training and support.
In addition, we covered best practice examples from around the UK and in Europe both with age friendly businesses and in helping older people back to work, plus facilitated learners in carrying out local research into the Employment and unemployment situation by age in their boroughs and in lobbying councils for change to help older people in their area.
We received positive feedback from the vast majority of our beneficiaries.
To continue accessing this information and support we set up a ROPES special members only section of our website which features 5 different elements to our library allowing people to use and access all this online support.
We also continued our support after the training to include newsletters, regular network meetings plus 121 support.
The other area of practical follow up work we did was to encourage local partnerships between beneficiary organisations and facilitated organisations applying for funding and setting up consortia.
As a result of our work there has been greater community and voluntary sector awareness around issues of older working age, the incidence of institutional ageism and ways to overcome these barriers.
There have been a number of organisations, including Housing Associations and smaller specialist agencies who have now got contracts to deliver DWP contract for the over 50s , both at regional funding levels for specific boroughs and also for larger pan regional ESF funded 50+ support for DWP clients that was led by Redbridge CVS.
We have been able, through ROPES, to research and develop best practice examples in order to produce 2 brochures around Age and Employment – one for Unemployed Seniors and the other for employers. These booklets are being used to help other CVS advisors and unemployed over 50s access best practice to help older job seekers find employment or self-employment. The Employers booklet is being used as part of wider campaigns to a educate and persuade employers of the benefits of retaining and employing over 50s employees and why an age diverse workforce improves their business performance. These booklets in pdf format have now been sent to all ROPES members and is available to be downloaded by site visitors. In addition, as part of our ROPES legacy programme we have printed off and are disseminating both brochures, which have received positive responses from both senior clients and C&VS agencies
We believe that as a result of this project we have been able to build a network of knowledgeable organisations and individuals able to help older people out of poverty and into employment and in the process overcoming social isolation, as well as helping the CVS to engage with the DWP and other agencies in a way that is effective for older people.
The indirect impact has been to help hundreds of over 50s Londoners who are out of work into employment or self-employment (50% of our Wise Age clients have been helped into work as opposed to the UK average for the 50+ of 15%). This has been as a result of ROPES beneficiary organisations both obtaining contracts for the local DWP 50+ employment support contracts, local borough 50+ programmes and being sub-contractors for wider ESF 50+ and allied programmes. The over 50s have been a key demographic in wider employment support programmes aimed at single parents, BAME and women unemployed clients and in particular Carers and ex- carers (as 50% of all carers in England are aged 50- 65). The members of our ROPES networked helped others along the road to employment, through volunteering and in so doing reduce their social isolation, loneliness and poverty.
All of the research, presentations, best practice examples and templates for seniors, employers and advisors has now been transferred from our Wise Age members only section to our home page of our www.wiseage.org.uk website ( to be found under Seniors, Employers and Advisors and Researchers sections).
We also held a final conference in 2018 around the issues of age and Employment – focusing on the situation in London. This was attended by DWP reps who were interested in our research, work and approach, which has further strengthened our relationship with the DWP who increasingly recognise the importance of supporting older unemployed seniors, especially those who are long term unemployed.
In addition, we have followed up this work, along with ROPES colleagues, to promote the key issues and recommendations that older job seekers and those that work with them to decision makers in London, in particular the Mayor of London. We are working with the Mayor’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team to help ensure that their EDI strategy incorporates the needs, demands and ideas of older Londoners, including those that relate to employment. This is an ongoing exercise which Wise Age and partners is actively engaged in and is working to incorporate an Employment and Skills set of recommendations and concerns within the wider project of helping the GLA to make London an Age Friendly city.
The ongoing challenges that face us include the decline of the voluntary sector. This has meant that some of the organisations we helped and who were ROPES members have since stopped operating, due largely to the lack of funding for the Community and Voluntary sector; further compounded by the massive cuts which local government has faced over the last 8 years, which in turn led to the reduction of grants and contracts available to the CVS. In addition, some of the people who were working on relevant older people’s employment support contracts for member organisations were let go as there was insufficient funding to continue their contracts. As the workload has increased for the Community and Voluntary sector while people and resources have declined it has led to a greater amount of pressure on existing staff and resources so that the primary basis for ongoing collaboration has had to be focused around trying to find new funding opportunities and contracts. However at local levels the relationships built up between members has been positive – especially between larger CVS organisations , such as Housing Associations, local Age UK borough branches and branches of national charities ( such as MIND) and smaller local specialist agencies ( who deal at a local level or around a particular client demographic such as Women Refugees, and Somali Pensioners).
Wise Age has also tried to involve local ROPES partners in other age related and employment projects in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Lewisham.
There is now a growing realisation that older working age people have a lot to offer, that age diversity really does increase employers’ profitability, productivity and staff morale and retention. As London faces a future with fewer numbers of young EU people coming to work, the importance of older Londoners joining the workforce and being re-skilled and retrained to work in a more flexible way and be able to support younger members of the workforce is being seen as a key feature in future workforce and HR development by companies of all sizes and in all sectors.
We thank Trust for London for their ongoing support and hope that our legacy will continue to help build the awareness of the importance of older working age people, of age diversity and as a result lead to even more older Londoners being employed in jobs they are good at and enjoy doing.
Wise Age Ltd,
3 Birkbeck Street, London E2 6JY