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NPC Budget Comment – March 2023

Comment by Jan Shortt, General Secretary, National Pensioners’ Convention:

“The Budget was hugely disappointing for millions of older people who are still struggling to meet rocketing bills with an inadequate state pension. The Chancellor started his speech by saying the government was providing a ‘safety net for older people’ but you would be hard pressed to find it in the detail.


'While higher earners will benefit from the abolition of the Lifetime Allowance (LTA), in reality this only helps a very small number of savers - 90% of the population will not even have enough to retire on, let alone put huge sums into a pension.


Budget disappoints as it ignores the oldest struggling to pay bills and in need of vital care


Whilst the government has extended energy support for another three months, there is little understanding that most older people use their heating all year round because their homes are damp and cold.


It is also shocking that the budget had no firm or clear resolution to the crisis in care services. Older people are being denied the help they need just to survive every day. They are dying through lack of access to appointments and treatments. We believe there is no commitment by this government to properly invest in care provision even though they know it is right to do so.


The focus on getting those over 50 back into work needs much more than 'boot camp' skills training. It needs the government to confront employers about their ageist attitude to employing older people. There is no recognition of, or value given to the skills, knowledge, experience, or work ethic that older people bring to the world of work. Older people still in work must be treated with respect and dignity, particularly if they suffer ill health. Unfortunately, while this Budget benefits higher earners, ordinary working people will still be paying more tax.”


FURTHER QUOTES

NPC President Rosie Macgregor added: "I am pleased that the energy price guarantee has been extended, and the higher charges have been scrapped for those, usually the poorest in society, on prepayment meters. However, I doubt that the measures suggested to bring the over 50s back into work will be successful. The government cannot realistically expect retired people to return to work, many with pre-existing health conditions, without costly retraining and assistance. The so-called ‘returnships’ may help but I have my doubts. How practical is it to expect everyone to continue to work when they are in their mid to late 60s with the same ability or enthusiasm as their younger colleagues?


Women are also badly let down by the pension system and their income is disproportionate to that of men - almost half by some estimates. Despite the offer of improvements to childcare there is a failure to address the gender pension gap. The government needs to recognise that many low paid women and men simply cannot afford to make contributions to occupational pensions.”


Pat Hughes, 70, retired nurse, Kent: “Apart from the fact that households will not be any better off, for me the key thing is the lack of commitment to health and wellbeing and rebuilding the NHS, which will result in the whole country being sicker and poorer.


If the government focus really is on growth, I am at a total loss to understand why they are doing nothing positive and seem blind to the link between health and productivity. I hope the changes to disability benefit and worker capability assessment will be positive, but I don’t know enough about them to know how welcome they are. I welcome any extra investment in mental health as this is a significant issue among the workforce, including those who are currently inactive.


‘But forcing people to take jobs they don’t want, or risk benefit sanctions are unlikely to do much for worker productivity. There was nothing helpful about retaining people like nurses in physically demanding jobs. Slogging around the wards on long shifts in your mid to late sixties is not much fun!"


Ian Millington, 75, retired teacher from Bucks: “I was living in Cheshire when I had to retire due to ill health in my fifties. I was teaching in an FE college which was going through a vast overall of the organisation and reduction of older staff, they said, to reduce costs, and bring in ‘new blood.’


The current initiatives suggested by the Chancellor would be of no use to me, or many thousands of others in my position. A doctor told me at the time that if I went back to teaching I would not last two days. It was not the students that were the problem, it was the altered workload due to loss of experienced staff. You are embedded with a work ethic and feel guilty being off long term. It took a couple of years before I felt able to take up part time work in completely different fields.”

ENDS


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