Updated: Sep 26, 2022
The National Pensioners’ Annual Convention heard calls for all four UK nations to have Older People’s Commissioners as more are plunged into poverty.
The NPC’s first public conference since before Covid (yesterday, 21 Sept) was given expert evidence of how our oldest and most vulnerable are facing increasing hardship in the face of soaring prices and growing ageism.
Opening panel (l.to.r) Eorann Lean, Age UK; Heléna Herklots, Older People’s
Commissionerfor Wales; NPC President Rosie MacGregor; NPC General Secretary
Jan Shortt; Rt Hon Lord George Foulkes; & Cllr Mariam Khan, Birmingham City Council.
Keynote speaker Lord George Foulkes, the Joint Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People, said it was time that England and Scotland had dedicated advocates for pensioners’ rights, as they have in Wales and Northern Ireland.
"Convention calls for Commissioners to fight for older people’s rights in every UK nation"
Backing the NPC’s continuing campaign for Commissioners, Lord Foulkes said: “Heléna Herklots, the Welsh Commissioner who is doing a great job in Wales, is with us here today. It is beyond time that we followed Wales’ example in England and Scotland, and I call today on the UK Government and the Scottish Government to act on this at the first opportunity.”
Lord Foulkes said pensioner poverty is ‘a growing scandal of immense proportions’ and even if the government keeps it promise to re-introduce the Triple Lock to guarantee a state pension rise next spring, it will not make up for the erosion in the value of pensions.
He added: “Some in politics are challenging even that. They say pensioners are doing better than poor families. It is wicked in the extreme to set one poor group against another when the wealth of the very rich doubled during the pandemic and the curb on bankers’ bonuses is being lifted.”
NPC, the UK’s largest campaign group run for and by older people, met in Birmingham Council House to discuss Pensioner Poverty and Older People’s Rights. More than 150 delegates heard from experts from Age UK, Cash Action Group, Healthwatch England, the Centre for Ageing Better, Better Transport, Homes for All, National Federation for the Blind UK and the Institute for Development Studies. Topics covered everything from the cost of food and fuel, inadequate pensions, poor housing, to disappearing services, for example - difficulty in getting GP appointments and social care, the push to end cash transactions, and the isolation caused by digital poverty of older people who do not or cannot use the internet.
Birmingham City Councillor, Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care told delegates how the council has declared a ‘cost of living emergency’ and the steps they were taking to help those struggling to make ends meet.
Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary said: “We would like to thank all of our brilliant speakers who were given a warm welcome by NPC members from across the country. We are also extremely grateful to Birmingham City Council for all their assistance, and to Lord Mayor Councillor Maureen Cornish JP for opening our event.
Jan added: “This first face to face Convention in three years galvanised our members to continue campaigning on behalf of pensioners, and particularly to see the appointment of Commissioners in England and Scotland.”
*Full reports of all the three panel discussions from the 2022 Annual Convention will be released shortly, along with speaker presentations and videos.
Download the press release below
Chairs: Rosie MacGregor, NPC President, Jan Shortt, NPC General Secretary, and Linda Richards, NPC Deputy General Secretary.
Welcome: Councillor Maureen Cornish JP, Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
(PANEL: Eat or Heat: the Killer Choice for Pensioners this Winter)
Lord Foulkes – Joint-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group, Ageing/Older People.
Eorann Lean – Senior External Affairs Manager, AGE UK.
Heléna Herklots – Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.
Councillor Mariam Khan, Birmingham Cabinet Member for Health & Social Care.
(PANEL) We Have Rights – So Why Don’t They Listen to Us?
Jo McGowan, Ageing Better - Head of Campaigns & Public Affairs, &
Christos Tuton, Parliamentary & Public Affairs Officer
Paul Burnham, Homes For All
Dr Becky Faith, Institute of Development Studies – Digital Poverty UK Report
(PANEL: The Disappearing Services That Millions Rely Upon)
Michael Solomon Williams, Campaigns Manager, Better Transport
Ben Knox, Healthwatch England
Cat Farrow – Co-ordination Lead, Access to Cash Action Group
Sarah Gayton & Sarah Leadbetter - National Federation for the Blind UK
Download the slides from the event