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The financial challenges for older people from minoritised ethnic communities

New research from Independent Age shines a light on unique financial challenges for older people from minoritised ethnic communities

Their analysis found that 29% of older Asian/Asian British and 25% of older Black/Black British/Black Welsh: African people are living in poverty[1]. Both figures are much larger than the overall pensioner poverty rate of 18%.

Independent Age’s analysis also revealed that older people from Black and Asian communities are less likely to own their homes and are more likely to rent in the social and private sectors. Almost half (49%) of Black/Black British/Black Welsh: African older people in the UK rent social housing.

This much higher than the national average for older people renting social housing which is currently 13%. Also, the analysis showed that one in five (21%) older people from an Arab background rent in the private sector[2]. People who rent in later life are more likely to be at risk of living in poverty in older age because many face high costs and insecurity.

Previous research from Independent Age highlighted how Black pensioners are at the greatest risk of long-term poverty with 17% of Black older people experiencing poverty for 7–9 years during a nine-year period, compared to 6% for all pensioners[3].

The latest census data shows that the UK’s population is ageing, and on average, the number of people aged 65+ has grown by 20% since the 2011 census. However, later life populations are growing faster in ethnic minority communities: for Asian/Asian British/Asian Welsh the figure is 74% and for Black/Black British/Black Welsh it is 35%[4]. As the population ages, Independent Age is calling on the government to take steps to address the shared issues faced by all older people in poverty, alongside the unique obstacles challenging those from minority ethnic communities.

Barriers to escaping poverty in minoritised ethnic communities

There are currently 2.1 million older people living in poverty in the UK, with many experiencing challenges including rising energy costs and insecure housing. Independent Age has done extensive research on the overarching causes of later life poverty. Now, through in-depth interviews with individuals, and community organisations who support people from diverse backgrounds including South Asian, Caribbean, Chinese and sub-Saharan African, the charity uncovered certain obstacles that apply to minoritised ethnic communities that could account for the higher numbers of people in poverty:

Language barriers: Older people from minoritised ethnic communities are a diverse mix of people born both in the UK and overseas. While many people from these communities speak fluent English as a first or second language, language differences can be an obstacle to employment opportunities and can affect people’s engagement with the social security system. Some people cannot access appropriate information about what welfare benefits they may be entitled to. While others can be met with racism and discrimination when trying to access support, which can deter them from doing so again.

Mistrust of the Government: Alarmingly, people talked about their distrust of the government, and how that prevents them applying for support, as they fear that the government might investigate their residency status and wrongly deport them. This was particularly true for older British Caribbean people who have been affected by the Windrush scandal when the UK Government wrongly detained or deported people, or denied their legal rights including their benefit entitlements.

Lack of awareness of financial support: The interviews revealed a lack of awareness of some government benefits, including Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance. Some people assumed that the money they receive from their State Pension is everything they are entitled to. A related theme was people not knowing how to access benefits, including a lack of awareness of the various organisations and advice agencies that support people to do so.

Download the full report

Independent Age, Older people from minoritised ethnic communities, Aug 2023-1
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