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Older people demand their voices are heard as they take call for a Commissioner to Downing St

The National Pensioners Convention joined partner organisations in Westminster today armed with a petition with over 37,000 signatures calling for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing.


The NPC and charities, Independent Age, Age UK, and the Centre for Ageing Better delivered the petition to the door of 10 Downing Street, and aim to take it to other political party leaders to make the case for change.

We are calling for a Commissioner to focus attention on the issues people in later life face, such as the hidden issue of pensioner poverty which affects one in six older people across the UK, difficulty accessing social care, and loneliness and social isolation. With one in four people due to be over 65, campaigners say that a Commissioner could facilitate the long-term planning that is needed to ensure the economy and society adapts for this demographic shift, enabling more people to age-well.


Representatives from the four organisations were joined by campaigners, who brought placards illustrating a carrier pigeon, walkie talkie, tin can and string, and a megaphone, to show that it shouldn’t be this difficult for older voices to be heard.


Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “This petition is a vital call for a much-needed independent voice for the older people of today, and tomorrow.


Ageism is a huge barrier to our growing older generation, as is the lack of understanding of the many issues that they face. A Commissioner in England would focus on these challenges to ensure that older people have the chance to live with dignity and respect.


The independent Commissioners for Older People in Wales and Northern Ireland have been successful in achieving positive change in policies that enable older people to be heard and not disadvantaged by party political decisions.


We need a national strategy for ageing well and a Commissioner would engage with Ministers and be the catalyst for government policymakers to take an holistic view of what needs to change for today’s and tomorrow’s older people.”


SUMMARY

• Petition with more than 37,000 signatures led by four leading older people’s organisations calls for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing.

• People in later life bring images of carrier pigeons, walkie talkies, and tin cans and strings to get Westminster to listen.

• The hand-in comes as more than 3 in 4 (78%) people over 65 surveyed in England think older people are badly understood by the government.

• With 1 in 6 older people in the UK living in poverty, a Commissioner could help people in financial hardship get the support they’re entitled to.

 

Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age said: “Older people have told us they’re fed up of feeling ignored and like their voices don’t matter. The people we speak to who are facing financial hardship, hit with high costs while managing on a low income desperately need an independent advocate with the power to make change. We have a rapidly ageing population, so these problems will just affect more and more people unless we make tackling them a priority. We need to see an urgent focus on the challenges older people face, and creating a Commissioner is one of the ways this can be done.”


Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: "Over the last few years, we've seen how the Older People's Commissioners in Northern Ireland and Wales have made a tangible difference. For example, they have certainly helped to amplify older people's voices, making it much harder for governments to overlook their views and interests when important decisions are made that impact them. It's high time the rapidly growing older population in England is able to benefit in a similar way." 


Dr Carole Easton OBE, Chief Executive at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The public has spoken on this issue and it is clear there is huge popular support for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing. More than anything, people can sense the unfairness that older people in Wales and Northern Ireland already have an advocate standing up for their rights but not in England.


“When we launched this campaign last year, we knew there was a compelling case to create a commissioner for England. Events since then have only served to highlight the necessity and urgency for change. Our anti-ageism campaign has highlighted the overwhelming presence of ageism within our society. Our State of Ageing report has highlighted the very dire financial insecurity, and inequality, among older people - a situation which will only deteriorate following last month’s Budget. And our new Safe Homes Now campaign reveals the reality for millions of older people who are living in homes that pose a direct threat to their health.


“If we want this country to become the best place in the world to grow older, we need to protect the rights of older people and better consider our ageing population in the policies we set and the society we build. That work needs to start with the creation of a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing.”


A poll by Independent Age of over 1,100 people aged over 65 in England found that three in four (75%) do not believe that society understands the issues facing older people. A Commissioner would amplify the voices of the diverse community that exists in later life, support businesses and public services to meet older people’s needs and have the power to bring together government departments and to make the experience of ageing better, which would benefit everyone as they reach later life.


Commissioners for older people already exist in Wales and Northern Ireland and have taken the lead on campaigning on cross-cutting issues that affect older people from all walks of life, from bus passes and care during COVID to the uptake of social security entitlements. Independent Age is leading a similar campaign for an Older People’s Commissioner in Scotland.


Independent Age, a charity that supports those in financial hardship in later life, says that the issue of poverty for over 65s is often hidden, when actually almost two million, or one in six older people across the UK are living in the poverty. The charity’s helpline advisers hear daily from older people who are eating one meal or not using the lights at nighttime because of the cost.


A Commissioner could contribute to lifting older people out of poverty, for example by raising awareness of Pension Credit, the state pension top-up for those of on a low-income which can increase someone’s income by an average of over £3,500 a year. The financial entitlement is currently not being received by over 880,000 of those entitled. 

Joanna Elson continued:


“A Commissioner could work to encourage uptake of vital financial entitlements that are dangerously under-received. They would listen to the voices of all older people, including those that are seldom heard, and work across UK Government departments to create joined up solutions for issues that will matter to all of us if we’re lucky enough to grow old.”


The hand-in was attended by older people and representatives from some of the 70 organisations who are also calling for a Commissioner for Older People and Ageing. The petition is calling on all party leaders to back calls for the creation of the role.


- ENDS -

 

Notes to editor

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,139 adults aged 65 and over. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 11th September 2023.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England (aged 65+).


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