As part of our networking and partnership work, Wise Age is happy to promote a series of events being run by Positive Ageing in London ( PAiL) in partnership with the GLA/Mayor of London's Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) TEAM.
Chris Walsh, our Chief Exec is also chair of PAiL and a member of the EDI working group, has been in the forefront of efforts to help make London an Age Friendly City. Following a conference held at City Hall in May, and chaired by Chris, where the Deputy Mayor for EDI spoke and introduced their Age Friendly city commitment, it was agreed that older people would take the lead in facilitating this programme in partnership with GLA officials and elected reps. To do this 8 working groups have been set up to develop strategies around each of the 8 World Health Organisation's domains or themes. These groups are meeting to agree the current research and situation relating to each topic based on research carried out by GLA officers, plus agree key recommendations and concerns raised by older people, based on previous agreed Recommendations arising from past PAiL conferences and other work on policies and demands raised by member organisations such as the National Pensioners Convention, retired members groups of Trade Unions, Age UK London and other organisations who are part of the London Stake Olders network. These domains include Employment (in which Wise Age are playing an active role) , Community Support and Health Services (including Social Care), Transport, Communication and Information (including Digitalisation), Housing, Social Participation and Civic Participation, Respect and Social Inclusion plus an Open Spaces and Buildings / Street audit.
At the end of the initial meetings of each of these groups, we will have drawn up a draft list of actions, priorities, research results and Recommendations / demands - which will then form the basis of a wider discussion open to all our members and other concerned older Londoners to agree a final plan for that domain. This will then lead to a wider Conference to draw up an agreed action plan to make London an age friendly city, including proposals for the Mayor's Office for implementation. This was supposed to take place on Friday 1st November at City hall, but the GLA have cancelled it and will let us know a new date later on There will be two one-day training sessions helping people to become age friendly street auditors and age friendly champions on Thursday 12th September at London Met University, Holloway Road and on Friday 13th at Sainsbury's training centre on the Strand from 10am.
At present there are less than 50% of people aged 64+ who are in work as a result of ageist employment practices and prejudice. We at Wise Age have been fighting against extending the pension age until and unless the majority of people in their last year before their pension are in employment. The older you get after 50, if you lose your job, the less chance you have of getting another full time job again (by 60 that is a less than 8% chance). So why do they want to extend the pension age? This is not an economic argument but a political one, the Conservatives and the right wing media want to make this into an intergenerational conflict to deflect from the real conflict between the wealthy and the rest of us and to keep people from focusing on the impact of austerity.
The older generations do not cost the country money, on the contrary they make a positive economic contribution and if it were not for the 'silver economy' we would be in a major recession.
There are 71% of people aged 50-65 in work, who make a major contribution into the economy. Their presence in the workforce helps increase productivity, profitability and improves staff morale, with more younger people being taken on and trained when older people are retained. Yet of the 29% out of work only 10% receive unemployment benefit, because so many of us are forced onto other benefits or not claiming at all.
For those that are aged 65+ there are now 1.2 million still in work, but voluntarily, as they are able to retain their pensions and work, often flexibly, while continuing to pay their taxes. This voluntary option is working very well and should be encouraged. But to force people to carry on working - when there is not much work for them - and for the many that have been exhausted by hard manual labour or health conditions this is an unfair, unjust attack on their right to enjoy their final years on a decent income.
The reality for many pensioners is that they live under or very close to the poverty line and the majority of pensioners earn less than £12k per year.
This obscene proposal by rich entitled and brutal politicians is a continuation of the demolition of the welfare state and the right to basic living standards while the richest continue to receive tax loopholes and benefit entitlements such as the subsidies to landlords and employers.
Wise Age continues to fight this and other attacks on ordinary working people of all ages. Remember what the Tories want to do to our rights, protections and incomes next time you vote.
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.