The National Pensioners Convention 40th Annual Parliament Conference 11th June 2019 Blackpool

Delegates from all parts of the Country gathered outside the Tower Ball Room Blackpool and then marched through the town to the Winter Gardens for the start of the three day Conference to discuss the many issues that affect the Pensioners of the United Kingdom.

Ron Douglas the President of the NPC opened the Conference by welcoming the guest speakers and delegates and thanked the Blackpool Council for their support in allowing the NPC to hold the Conference in the Winter gardens. Councillor Fred Jackson spoke on behalf of the Mayor and thanked the NPC for once again returning to Blackpool and hoped that everyone would enjoy their time in the town. He said he would be staying on to listen to the other speakers addressing the Conference on that day as he was very interested in hearing from the speaker on environmental issues.

Gillian Kelly an Environmental Campaigner told the Conference, she had always been concerned with environmental issues and had been involved with demonstrating against Fracking as this causes methane gas to be released into the environment. She had also been involved on various campaigns and demonstrations on issues that affect the planet and wants to protect the environment for the future generations to come. She asked the NPC to join in the battle to save our planet for the future.

Dave Ward CWU General Secretary told the Conference that the NPC has always been a strong supporter of the CWU and had campaigned on saving Post Office Counters closures. He told the Conference that as a young man he had joined the Post Office and knew he had a job for life, and that job was well paid which allowed him to have a chance to better himself. So many young people today however have jobs that are low paid and very little chance of getting on in the way that those of our generation had. There are a large number of both children and pensioners living in poverty. Due to the low paid jobs the younger generation are unable to get on the housing ladder or even get a Council House. The CWU want all unions to come together and fight for a new deal for the workers of this country.

On Post office Counters he said the CWU want the Post Office Counters to become a Post Office Bank because it would be able to help those who need it, with affordable loans and low interest rates. He went on to say that Postmen/Women in France help out in the community by collecting and delivering prescriptions and keep a check on the ill and infirm.

The Vice President of the PCS Zita Holbourne gave a presentation on the Windrush Scandal and the issues that had arisen from this issue. She said that it had been reported that the Windrush Scandal had been resolved and that deportation of people had ceased, when in fact this is not the case. Between 1948 and 1973 nearly 600,000 Commonwealth citizens came to live and work in this country with the right to remain indefinitely, but many were not given documentation to confirm their immigration status and the Home Office did not keep records. Many of these people were from the Caribbean and were employed in driving buses, working in industries, and Nursing staff where they paid their Taxes and National Insurance. The problem that has occurred is that not all these people have completed the relevant forms to become British Citizen’s, as these forms are on line and many do not have access to a computer. This has caused some people being deported as Illegal immigrants. She said there had been examples of elderly relatives going back to the Caribbean but when trying to return home have been refused entry. She told the Conference that she wanted the NPC to campaign to ensure that these people are given the assistance to ensure that help is given to resolve this issue on registration.

Jan Shortt General Secretary of the NPC. In her opening address thanked all delegates for attending and the guest speakers. On the issue of the environment, she said this was the very first time a Motion on this issue had been placed before the NPC Biennial Conference. She also thanked Dave Ward for the support that the CWU has given to the NPC and also the speaker on the Windrush Scandal.

Jan highlighted the plight of the D Day Veterans and gave an example of a veteran who requires Social Care as he has Alzheimer’s and has been told that as he owns his house, he will have to sell it to pay for his care. This is how we treat those who fought for our freedom on the D Day Beaches. On the TV licences it was highlighted that a consultation in the TV Times that all those who said that the over 75s should keep the free licence, the majority said it was the Governments responsibility to maintain this service. This was different from what the BBC consultation came up with. The NPC has organised a coach to take those who wish to demonstrate outside the BBC studios in Manchester. We have to fight to keep the free licence in every way we can, and she called upon Regional Secretary’s to organise demonstrations outside Regional BBC offices on the 21st June. This is not just for our generation but for the future pensioners.

Wednesday Morning Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness. The Guest Speakers for this session were Rhiannon Taylor Cheshire Labour Party, and Neil Duncan-Jordan NPC.

Rhiannon explained that she was the Women’s Officer for the Cheshire Labour Party. She said that there was a recurrent theme that those who reach retirement find that they are hit the hardest because of the current low State Pension where women have not attained a full pension entitlement.

On the NHS she said the NHS is in a desperate state with a large number of EU Nationals returning to the EU and the Nursing Bursary having been withdrawn by the present Government. There are concerns that the NHS will be privatised which could result in care for the elderly being even further reduced.

She said that following the report from the House of Lords on their proposal that the Winter Fuel Allowance along with other universal benefits would result on thousands of pensioners in poverty with a choice of Eating or Heating. She reported that there were a number of problems with those who are applying for Universal Credit due the complications involved in applying, and many who are refused do not appeal against the decision. On the younger generation she said they are unable to get on the housing ladder due to the high cost of housing and low wages. Builders are reluctant to build affordable houses and there is a shortage of Council Homes. We must stop blaming one generation for the problems in society.

Neal Duncan-Jordon told the meeting that over the past years this country has been in decline and this is due to austerity cuts. We have all been put into categories, and when it comes to the elderly it is assumed that all the baby boomers are rich. If you assume this to be true then this creates inequality, because not everyone is equal. More than at any other period in our history our society is being divided and categorised in terms of the generation when you were born.

There are those who think that public spending on the older people should be spent on the younger generation. If you took the total amount spent on the Winter Fuel Allowance and gave it to the younger generation, then they would receive just £170 each. Taking money from one group to give to another will not work .By any standard this amount of money is unlikely to have any noticeable impact on the long term prospects of this younger generation. If you take it away from the elderly of today it will not mean it is given to the youngsters, but could just disappear for good.

The House of Lords are calling for a cut in the Universal Benefits, and at the same time calling for an increase of their daily Attendance Allowance(which is more than the TV licence and the Winter Fuel allowance) as they say it is too low. If we allow the free TV Licence for the over 75’s which will affect over 3 million households who are receiving a free licence to be taken away we will find the Bus Pass and Winter Fuel Allowance will also be taken away .

Wednesday Afternoon there was a session on how we solve the Social Care Crisis? Jan Shortt the General Secretary opened the meeting and welcomed the Guest speakers who were Heather Wakefield from the Greenwich University and George McNamara from Independent Age.

Heather Wakefield thanked the NPC for inviting her back to speak on this subject. She said it is the same social care crises as it was last year the only difference is that it is now worse. This particular applies to England whilst Social care in Scotland and Northern Ireland is better if still far from perfect, but most of her comments would be on England Social Care. We need to address the issues on what we really mean by Social Care and how to get the NPC fully mobilised on this issue. In Scotland and NI Social Care is integrated with the Health Services, and as we know in England this is not the case. In England we have over 8 Million informal carers doing the work that should be provided by local Government or at least provided by public Funding. There are at least one and a half million people, according to the latest estimate who are not getting any care at all and it is going to get worse.

There is an 8% vacancy rate in care at this moment and almost a 3rd of carers leave in the first year of service. The Government cuts to local councils has resulted in up to 30% cuts in social care, and more and more people are having to pay for their own care by selling their homes. 80% of social care in England is in the hands of private companies, and we believe that social care should be provided through taxation. We are the 5th richest country in the world but we are not able to provide care for those who need it the most.

George McNamara spoke about concerns on the inequalities of income of those living longer and the situation where there are those who have and those who have not. He said every day there are 277 older people living in pension poverty, these are figures issued by Government but there is very little being done to address this problem. Of those eligible to claim Pension credit up to 40% do not receive it because the system is complex and intrusive.

When it came to the issue care homes, he said that Governments have said they will put a cap on the amount you will have to pay for residential care, but this only applies to the care you receive, it does not apply to the accommodation and food. Those who have to use their savings and sell their house will never live long enough to reach the level of the cap because two thirds of the cost of residential care is the cost of accommodation etc.

He went on to say that what most people want in later life is to live independently in in their own home with care provided where it is necessary, but the system of carer’s provision is inadequate with too much pressure being put upon them to carry out basic care. The NHS complains about Bed Blocking by the elderly because they are unable to be discharged due to the lack of care being provided by the current system. Social care is not just for Pensioners, it is for everyone who needs it. Over £150bl are saved each year by unpaid carer’s, many of these being family members some who are still at school and look after disabled parents. We need a system that is suitable for everyone who needs care.

Thursday. The closing session of the Parliament. Eddie Lynch the Commissioner for Northern Ireland addressed the full Conference and explained what his role as the Pensioners Commissioner for NI was.

 The Commission was set up in 2011 and the Commissioner is elected for a four year term of office by the Deputy First Minister for N Ireland .The main principles of this office is to be an independent champion to safeguard the rights of the older people. There is a staff of 15 which is funded by the department of Community Programmes but they do not have any say in how the money is spent or what area we should look at. The department has legal powers to conduct formal and informal investigations on issues that affect the pensioners, and then publish advice to the Government. The main areas that we are looking at currently are to ensure that the pensioners keep the bus pass, the winter fuel allowance and of course the TV licence, which should have never been given to the BBC in the first place. Loneliness for older people is something that has to be address because it can lead to health issues such as heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. The report also said that it is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. He said he was also concerned that there has been a large increase in scamming of older people which need to be addressed.

 He said other powers he has are to investigate complaints from relative’s or staff of care homes regarding poor care. These powers allow him to investigate the home and call a witness if that is required. The home has no say in what areas he looks at and he can force the improvements to be made. If this is not carried out then the home will be closed down. He gave an example of one such case.

Emma Lewell MP for South Shields told the Conference how she had watched the commemoration of the D Day Landings and expressed her admiration for all those brave people who fought for our rights to be free. Now it would seem that this Government is going to take away their right to have a free TV licence, and could condemn them to a life of loneliness. Emma went on to point out that we have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe, and that over the past five years pensioners have been under attack by this Government. The level of the state pensions has fallen in real terms, and there are many pensioners living in pension poverty. There are those living on their own who do not let anyone know that they have to make the choice of heating or eating .She also raised the issues of the large number of women who have lost a lot of money due to the raising of the retirement age.

Jan Shortt in her closing speech thanked all the speakers for their contributions, she also all the Chairs of the workshops. She went on to thank all the NPC staff for all the work carried out to make the Parliament the success. To conclude she thanked all the delegates that had attended, and said if possible next year bring a friend to boost the numbers. She went on to point out that the NPC has now got a Housing policy which was carried at the Biennial Conference and that there is now a booklet on sale which the Unite Union had produced on behalf of the NPC.

There then followed a session of questions from the floor on a large number of issues.

The Conference closed at 1200hrs on Thursday.


Reclaim Social Care Parliamentary Meeting 14th May 2019

I along with 20 members of Reclaim Social Care attended a meeting in the Houses of Parliament to put pressure on Labour MPs for the need for a radical new system for social care and support. Eleanor Smith MP, who is the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Social Care, hosted the meeting, and also in attendance was a representative for the Shadow Social Care Minister, Barbara Keeley, and Rachael Maskell MP (Chair of APPG for Older People).

There were also Speakers representing disabled people, the National Pensioners Convention, carers and campaigners who all emphasised that the social care and support that covers all age groups, must be free at the point of need, publicly provided/funded, and should promote independent living. We also heard from our Reclaim Social Care speakers who gave an overview, with perspectives from carers, the elderly and disabled people.

 Gordon Peters a member of the Reclaim Social Care Committee told the meeting he has been working in Social care for over 50 years, and the issue of Social Care has been raised and postponed by all Governments over the past years and we are still waiting for the present Governments Green Paper. We want parity within the Social Care system that is available to everyone and does not require means testing to obtain it.

If we look at Parity of investment between public services it shows that the cost of adult social care is only 6% of the combined size of the main universal public services. Yet it is deemed unworthy of being converted into a universal service or being properly funded. This results in a Social Care system that cannot protect its integrity of purpose or establish a relationship of equality with other public services. We need a Social Care system that is funded from taxation and is free to all at the time of need.

 He went on to say that the majority of care workers are women who work long hours and are poorly paid, we cannot allow this situation to continue. Rachael Maskell, MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Elderly gave an impassioned speech, endorsing our stance and approach. There were many other contributions from attendees.

The meeting closed at 19.30.


Retired Members Annual Conference Fringe Meeting Monday 29th April 2019

John Martin RMAC Chairman welcomed members to the meeting and introduced the guest speakers to the meeting who were: - Tony Kearns Senior Deputy General Secretary, Hugh Gaffney MP, Norman Candy Former CWU Policy Advisor, and Neal Duncan-Jordon NPC National Officer.

Tony Kearns told the meeting that the three pillars approach to the union which looks at members working practices and advising on issues, which include Retired Member’s issues, the change will mean that the new approach will be under one pillar. The retired members will have an elected member to the NEC who will attend the RMAC meetings. With regards to this years Retired Members Conference this may well be in October in Birmingham, however available dates have yet to be confirmed.

He told the meeting that the report from the House of Lords on what they think should be taken away from pensioners, (Winter Fuel Allowance, Bus Pass, triple Lock on Pensions ETC,); is something that the retired members should take to their Branches for assistance to fight these proposals. When asked what are the Union doing to recruit members onto retired membership, Tony explained there was a problem with a large number of members leaving the service early and do not consider themselves as Retired. We need to look at changing the wording of Retired Members. On the issue of the difference between Retired and Portability Members, Tony said that this is to be dealt with in a long term plan on recruitment.

Hugh Gaffney MP Scotland told the meeting that he had been attending Conference for 25 years. He said as a Labour Party member he stands for justice for workers and wants to see changes. He said too many companies are employing and under paying young people. He has increased the number of Councils who have taken part in workers memorial day. He went on to say he will continue to work hard in supporting the CWU and he was against Scottish independence because the CWU covers the whole of the UK, and he does not want to see Harridans Wall rebuilt. On Post Office closures he said that we are in danger of becoming a cashless society, and this could have major effect on many pensioners who do not use online banking and card payments. Postmasters are walking away from their business as they can no longer keep going due to the reduction in work for them now that many payments being paid directly into bank accounts.

The next speaker was Norman Candy requested delegates to ask their branches if they have any historic documents such as Minutes or records of events that have been stored in the branch archives which we would like to preserve for posterity. If any Retired members have items they think may be have interest and are willing to donate them we would welcome this.

The final speaker to address the meeting was Neil Duncan-Jordon. NPC Neil gave a summary of the House of Lords’ Select Committee report entitled Tackling Intergenerational Fairness, published on 25th April 2019 is just the latest of a long line arguments for the scrapping or means-testing of Universal Pensioner Benefits, on the premise that older people are no longer living in poverty. The report also argues that concessions such as the bus pass or winter fuel allowance are “outdated” and unfair to young people, and that Government should rightly do more to support younger generations in the housing and employment market. The main part of the report states that the Government take the following action.

  • Removing the triple lock for the State Pension and instead uprating it in line with average earnings.
  • Phasing out free TV licences based on age with the Government then deciding if it wants to subsidise TV licences based on a means-test of household income.
  • From 2026-28, when the state pension age (SPA) becomes 67, Free Bus Passes and Winter Fuel Payments should only be available five years after a person becomes eligible for their State Pension. The age of entitlement to benefits should be harmonised with the SPA, but there should be transitional protection for those currently in receipt of the benefits so that they continue to receive them.
  • Alongside changing the age at which individuals become eligible for these benefits, the Government should also consider treating them as part of taxable income.
  • Better off workers over the SPA, who earn over £12,500 a year should pay National Insurance while they continue to work.

On the issue of the TV Licence for the over 75s being passed onto the BBC, Neil said, the BBC has yet to decide the future of the over 75s’ TV licence, but it is widely accepted that the broadcaster should not be responsible for funding or administering part of the Government’s wider social or welfare policy. Suggestions of means-testing the concession will be fraught with costly bureaucracy and legal problems, and like all means-tests, is likely to end up hurting those who need the most support.

When it comes to idea of scraping the Bus Pass and the winter fuel allowance Neil said the bold suggestion that the Winter Fuel Allowance and the Bus Pass should be scrapped for future generations bears absolutely no relation to the scale of fuel poverty in the UK. There is a rising number of winter deaths, and an increase in loneliness among older people. The benefit of keeping active, mobile and independent in older age, the economic and environmental benefits of bus travel and the massive contribution that older people continue make to society in general is very important. For example, the latest evidence shows that informal, unpaid carers save the exchequer £57bn a year in care costs alone.

Since 2008, households across the UK have experienced unprecedented falls in their living standards. Contrary to much of the public debate however it is actually those of working age, rather than pensioners, who are currently most likely to be wealthy, with a very large proportion of our national wealth held by a very few households, regardless of age. Solutions to young people’s problems will not therefore be found by reducing entitlements for pensioners. Instead, improving the new generation’s chances requires profound changes in how we structure our economy and distribute wealth.

The Chair thanked all the speakers and the members for attending the meeting, their questions and input into the Event.

The meeting closed at 14.15.

Rod Downing  - RMAC/South East No 5 Retired Members Secretary


Report on the Wessex NPC AGM held on the 4th April 2019

In her report to the AGM the Chair reported that the Campaigning had continued over the past year with a Biodegradable Wreath being laid at the West End war memorial on the 11th of December in memory of the 50.000 people of which 47,000 were pensioners who died from cold related illness during the months from December 2017 to March 2018. We also affixed a wreath to the lamp post in the main street of West End, with an explanatory notice. We hope people had read this notice and were as shocked as we were on the number of cold related deaths of Pensioners.

 NPC Dignity Day Friday 1st March. The Wessex Executive committee had a stall in the Atrium of the South Hants Hospital Southampton. Many out patients attended and signed our petition calling for dignity in care and were genuinely interested in the issues we talked about.

The NPC Lobby of Parliament had been very successful despite problems with Trains following signal problems on South west trains. The meeting was addressed by Neil Duncan Jordon the NPC National Officer. On the question of Social Care, Neil said that the NPC has had many meetings with MPs on other issues, but have not been able to speak to any Member of Parliament or the opposition on this subject.

On the issue of the Social Green Paper Neil said there is no mention on how social care will be paid for. At present you will have to pay for your Care until you reach a ceiling of 100k, then your care will be paid for by the Government and this is only for care; it does not cover the cost of Board and Food whilst in a care home. There are very few people that will ever reach the 100k payment for Care. The NPC want to have a National Care System that requires everyone to pay into and is surprised how many people think that when it comes to care, the Government will pay.

 On the issue of the over 75’s TV Licence Neil said that John Osbourne had forced the BBC to take over the licence fee because this would take the blame away from the government and put it into the hands of the BBC. Some of the ideas that have been bounded about are to move the age to 80, or to make a reduction in what has to be paid.

 Rod Downing  - Retired Members Secretary


National Pensioners Convention - Biennial Conference 2019

Jan Shortt General Secretary. In her opening address to conference the General Secretary said that uniting the generations is a critical part of the work the NPC need to do now and in the future. She said that there is also a need for trade unions to understand more about state pension because the workers of today will increasingly rely on the basic state pension as a main source of income in retirement. The NPC is once again in deficit and needs additional income within the next year and we need to find a way of increasing our income through donations, and by encouraging more individual members to sign up to our organisation. On Campaigns, Jan told the Conference, the recent Save our TV Licence demonstration was well attended, but we need to keep the pressure on by holding further and larger demonstrations. The other issues we need to campaign on are the NHS and Social Care, this requires a change in Legislation which is very hard to achieve. In addition there is a lot of work still to be done on the inequality between the two rates of pensions.

NPC Housing Policy. The NPC is currently in the process of formally agreeing a detailed Housing policy. This policy was submitted to the Biennial Conference for agreement. There were some amendments to the report which were carried, these small amendments included that there is an urgent need for local authority housing, and that the use of not for profit building companies should not be used.

Review of the NPC Annual Pensioners Parliament. A report on the review was submitted as a Special Report to the Conference. It was felt that the name of the NPC Pensioners Parliament was misleading and should be changed to, The National Pensioners Annual Convention from 2020. The report also said that there is a need for the Organising Committee to seek to find ways of widening the programme to maintain interest and support of delegates. There have been calls to combine the BDC with the National Parliament; the report felt that this would not be achievable due to cost. The report was accepted without any amendments being carried.

Motions to change the NPC Constitution. There was only one motion to change the wording of the NPC Constitution admitted to the agenda, this motion called for all Elected Office Positions to be elected for a maximum period of three terms, followed by a mandatory stand down of one full term before standing for any other elected position as defined in the constitution. This Motion was not carried.

Policy Motions and amendments.

Motion No.1 This motion called upon the NPC to campaign to challenge the unfairness of those having to work longer before they can claim their pension, and therefore contribute more than the 35 years required to achieve a full state pension. The motion submitted a formula for the calculation of pensions based on the number of years that contributions have been paid. After a long debate the Motion and amendments to the Motion was NOT Carried

Motion No.2. Pensions Index. This motion called upon the NPC to campaign to change the index base that is used to calculate the state pension increase. It called for the Household Inflation Index (HII) as described by Austin and Leyland in their paper Towards a Housing Index. (Royal Statistics Society, May 2015). The Secretary asked conference to remit this Motion. This was agreed.

Motion No.3. NHS and Social care. About 3 years ago the NHS introduced a system whereby patients were given payments to enable them to source their own treatment. In 2018 this system was extended to cover a total of eight thousand patients for an extended range of treatments. It was felt that this was nothing less than creeping privatisation, and should be resisted. The NPC EC was instructed to commence a campaign aimed at stopping any extension to the scheme and ultimately get it eliminated. The motion was carried.

Motion No.4. NHS Integrated Care. This motion raised concerns that the NHS has consulted on a new model of health and social care provisions. Each of these business units would control spending and rationing of health care for populations of up to 500,000 each. These contracts will be open to the private sector to compete for. It called upon the NPC to work with unions that represent care workers to oppose this vigorously. The Motion was carried.

Motions No.5. & 6. Social Care. Both of these motions were on the issue of Social Care. Motion 5 instructed the NPC to campaign for all Governments across the UK to invest in a level of social care that will ensure that all older people receive the support they need to maintain their independence and to live with dignity. Motion 6 instructed the NPC to call upon the Government, local authorities, regulators and providers of social care, to abolish the current distinction between personal care and funded nursing care, and to ensure that skilled nursing assessment and advice is available to residents in care homes. Both these motions were carried.

Motion No.7. TV Licence Campaign. This motion called upon the NPC to campaign for the Government to take back full responsibility for funding the TV Licence for the over 75 year olds. It also called for full support from Unions and the TUC. Carried.

Motion No 8 Digital Inclusions. The office for National Statistics published a report in May last year which said that older people are less likely to use the internet. It added that of the 4.5 million adults (8.4%) who had never used the internet in 2018, more than half (2.6%) were aged 75 and over. The motion called for a report to be published publicising existing policies aimed at enabling older people to get on line, use computers, and tablets. The motion was carried.

Motion No.9 New Technology. This motion was concerned that older people and those with disabilities are not being equally considered in terms of access, competence, creating confidence and keeping up to date with using modern technology. The motion asked the NPC to highlight the true cost and effects of Digital Exclusion of older folk who may not be able to afford such equipment or indeed be able to use it, and also be able to afford to update software as required. The motion was carried.

Motion No.10. Provision of Public Toilets. For many older people the availability of public toilets facilities and particularly accessible toilets is a major concern when undertaking journeys by public transport. In recent year’s cutbacks by local authorities have led to the closure to many toilet facilities in towns and shopping areas. The Conference called for the NPC to campaign along with trade unions and other organisations to press the Government to: Ensure that all rail franchises include provisions for accessible free toilets at all stations that serve a population greater than 50,000. Recommend that Local Authorities and Bus Station operators provide and maintain suitable and sufficient toilet facilities at bus stations. The Motion was carried.

Motion No.11.ENVIROMENTAL ISSUES. Air pollution in the UK is a public health emergency with over 40.000 people dying each year from the air that they breathe. This is an issue that impacts with particular severity on older people who may find it more difficult to cope with the results of severe weather. The NPC should stress to other relevant campaign organisations trade unions and MPs the impact on older people. The NPC should investigate and promote its likely effects and possible damage limitation on all people as it is an intergenerational issue. The Motion was carried.

MOTION 12 WAS WHITHDRAWN.

Motion13.NPC Housing Policy. This motion asked that we seek to have an additional working party to monitor, research and make recommendations in reference to the NPC housing policy. The Motion was carried Motion

14. LGBT. This motion pointed out that LGBT pensioners face particular problems and challenges especially in later life. A higher proportion of LGBT pensioners face isolation and loneliness because of prejudice and discrimination. The motion said the NPC should and could do more to support our LGBT pensioners, and called for the setup of a LGBT working Group. The Motion was carried.

 Rod Downing - Retired Members Secretary


TUC LESE Pensioners Network Meeting held on the 26th March 2019

The Chair Ron Douglas welcomed delegate to the Special meeting on the subject of Brexit and how it may affect pensioners. There should have been four guest speakers to address the meeting but only two attended , these were Chris Walsh from Age Platform Europe, and Professor Anand Menon, Director the UK in a changing Europe.

Chris Walsh was the first to address the meeting. He said that the one solution that we do not want was a no deal Brexit. 'We should not forget that Europe has allowed us to put an end to internal European wars and that it has helped us strengthen a belief and respect for democracy and for greater equality and justice for all. I hope that either Brexit doesn’t take place or, if it does, that younger English people who are aware of all the benefits of Europe and all the protection and rights we have in Europe are able to then ask to return within 5 or 10 years.'

He said that “if this were to happen and a Tory Party remains in Government then we will lose all the bill of rights that we have at present from the EU Legislation and he was also worried about pension rights/the triple lock”. Another concern was that if we trade with the USA outside of the EU Legislation we will have untested drugs being imported from the USA, and a lack of the quality of food imports from the US. Other issues he highlighted were we may well lose our consumer rights that we have under EU Law and there may well be long delays at airports and ports. As a remainer he would like to see a soft Brexit deal.

Professor Menon said there’s no clear path through Britain’s Brexit Maze. Let’s deal with the obvious first. Brexit means, at least in the short to medium term, that the British economy will be smaller than it otherwise would have been. If leaving the EU means anything, it means making new trade with our nearest and largest trading partners more difficult. There is no serious economic study that suggests this is a route to greater aggregate prosperity and the numbers, moreover, are serious. Our own analysis suggests the UK in a Changing Europe under the Brexit deal negotiated by the Prime Minister would reduce UK GDP per head by between 1.9 and 5.5% by 2030 compared to remaining in the EU. That would imply a reduction in tax receipts of some £9 billion by 2030 at the low end of the range, and £37 billion (almost the entire health and social care budget) at the high end.

So money will be tighter after Brexit but that’s not to say we shouldn’t start thinking about how we want our country to work once we have left the EU. After all, for all the dramatic rhetoric about cliff edges, most forecasts have the British economy still growing post-Brexit (assuming we leave with a deal). One thing is certain there will still a great deal for the Government do to address the discontent that the last couple of years have revealed.

There were good reasons why the slogan ‘Take Back Control’ proved effective. The analyse of a number of Post-Referendum Studies/Surveys underline that, as well as implying the need to take power back from Brussels, it also mobilised general broader dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction, partly, with politics, a decade on from the expenses scandal. Unhappiness, equally, with the state of an economy characterised by stagnant wages, inequality, rising housing costs and increasingly low paid and precarious employment. The famous red bus was as much a call to arms against austerity (note the Labour red and NHS logo) as against the European Union. In a sense, these grievances marked the final eruption of dissatisfaction that had been building since both the expenses scandal and the financial crisis. In neither case had reforms been seen as sufficient to redress unambiguous inequities.

Indeed, welfare and, especially, monetary policy helped shelter and indeed boost asset owners at the expense of the least well off. By providing a means to sidestep the constraints of the first past the post electoral system, the referendum empowered people to express their dissatisfaction far more potently than in the preceding General Elections.

Whilst you may not guess it from the inability of Government and Parliament to talk about anything other than Brexit, there is much that needs to be done. For as Westminster agonises about May’s deal versus Canada, versus Common Market 2.0 versus Norway plus, the public at large will judge Brexit not on the basis of what trade deal we strike, but what happens here in the UK. Indeed, the more Westminster agonises over these matters, the more pressing the need to find solutions to the problems the Referendum revealed. The reputation of politics and Parliament has taken a battering since Article 50 was triggered, whilst uncertainty has impacted severely on our economy already.

So there is a long and rocky road ahead of us but we should start thinking about the steps that might need to be taken in future. Is further devolution, including within England, a way to restore trust in politics? Should we be considering electoral reform to prevent the build-up of grievances that the Referendum so starkly revealed? How do we build a fairer and more inclusive economy?

A final word on what might transpire should Brexit not, in fact, go ahead. I’ve written elsewhere about the problems of holding another Referendum yet it may still end up as the most appealing option confronting us. If so, however, the same substantive policy problems would confront us, whatever the outcome. That would obviously be the case in the event of another Leave Vote. Equally, were Remain to triumph, it would do so partly on the back of earnest promises from the campaign to ‘address the real problems the Referendum of 2016 revealed.’ While there’s little guarantee that Leave voters would listen to those they’d ignored first time around, if sufficient numbers did, we would again confront the problem of figuring out how to deliver on Referendum promises made by people with no formal political power. There is, in essence, no easy way out.

As was the case in all meetings where Brexit has been debated there was no consensus on the outcome of the debate. Some were in favour of Brexit whilst others felt that we should leave the EU. There were a number of questions raised which there was no definite answer that the outcome would be. The Chair thanked the Speakers and said it was very poor not to have been informed as to why the other speakers had not indicated they were not available to attend, particularly as one of those works in the TUC Building.

Rod Downing - Retired Members Secretary


NPC Save Our Over 75s TV Licence Rally 7th March 2019

Pensioners from all over the country gathered outside the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport calling for the Government to take back the responsibility for the over 75s free T.V licence.

Jan Shortt, the NPC General Secretary said: “We need to send a clear message to the Government that it should be their responsibility to pay for the TV licence for the over 75s, not the BBC’s. This is really a cut to pensioner benefits by the Government, but the BBC is going to take the blame for it.” “Millions rely on the TV as their main source of companionship and scrapping the TV licence for older people will send the wrong message – and once it’s gone, it will be harder to get it back. Ms Shortt added “alongside Age UK and a number of other charities and pensioner groups, the NPC is also backing a petition which aims to safeguard the concession. It currently has almost 80,000 signatories and you can add your support via: http://ageuk.org.uk/tvpetition”.

After the rally the pensioners attended a Rally in Portcullis House to hear speeches from the NPC Officers and Four M.Ps from the Labour Party. The meeting was told that the Labour Party would do all they can to try and get the Government to take back the responsibility for the over 75s TV licence. By out sourcing the TV Licence Fees to the BBC, they feel they can say it was not the Government that took away the Free TV licence from the over 75’s, it was the BBC.

For many Elderly People the TV is a life line and helps them to stop getting illnesses related to loneliness through stress and for many it is the only contact they may have with the outside world for days. What’s next? Will they outsource the Bus Pass and the Winter Fuel Allowance?

Jan Shortt told the delegates that this is not just one demonstration on this issue, there will be many more we will not let the Government keep taking away one of the benefits that Pensioners have worked and paid for in their taxes during their working lives. This is not just for the pensioners of today, but also for the pensioners of tomorrow.

Rod Downing - Retired Members Secretary


Health Campaigns - Together Social Care Meeting - Birmingham 28th February 2019

The chair welcomed delegates to the meeting and thanked everyone for their continued support.

The Social Care is Broken’ leaflet has been produced and the first 5,000 have gone and another 5,000 are being printed. Everyone can order bundles of free copies by e mailing campaigns@keepournhspublic.com, and you can make a donation for the postage and packaging when ordering.

Potential meeting with MPs. Eleanor Smith has confirmed that she is still happy to facilitate a meeting but is holding fire for the moment. There was no news regarding the publication of the Green Paper yet.

Healthcampaignstogether.com. The latest HCT newspaper carried a 2 page report on the Conference and there is a thread on the website for posting info and articles re social care.

Labour Party Model Resolution. There have been a number of attempts to produce a Model resolution to go forward to the Labour Party Conference. Following a long discussion on the wording the Secretary would produce the rewording of the resolution, and circulate to the members. He will endeavour to:-

  • expand the declaration that social care should be publicly provided through Local Authorities to include something like “an agreed partnership” (which might need to include the NHS)
  • Ensure the sentence on local provision includes DELIVERY as well as DESIGN as far as possible by service users and CARERS/CARER’S ORGANISATIONS.
  • consider referencing legislation.

Getting the Market out of Social Care. A brief discussion here raised the issue of whether and if so what kind of transitional programme might be useful. Various people expressed concern re unaccountable Integrated Care Systems driving forward radical changes at high speed with or without Local Government involvement eg .in Nottingham where the LA have withdrawn from Governance in the ICP’s. John Lister clarified that none of the original STPs had proposals for Social Care and more Councils are feeling marginalised.

There was Round up of action from local areas. Ealing Social Care Action Group were positive re the leaflet because they are facing massive cuts to personal budgets and are having a public meeting next week. They have a member on the Steering group of Ealing Social Care Co-op which is developing a new model of care with the support of Ealing Council.

Haringey Social Care Alliance is working on a possible public and social enterprise partnership which would look at providing home care in the first instance and the LA is interested. They are also involved in a pilot which could transform a nursing home scheduled for closure into an Aging Well/ Wellbeing centre. Their thinking is developing around the notion of a Just Transition which accepts that we can’t shift immediately from the current highly marketised provision to public provision but can work out ways to start moving in the right direction.

Birmingham Care workers strike against cuts to pay and conditions is now in its 17th month and there have been 70 days of strike action. The Council is threatening workers with an injunction. The local LP and some Labour councillors are calling on the Council to withdraw the threat of an injunction and there was a lobby of the Council this week. Campaigners are keen to set up a broad coalition with the trade unions. Richard H. said that there are 106,000 care workers in the west midlands but their voice generally goes unheard.

Leeds KONP gave out the HCT Social care flier on Dignity Day 1st March. A Leeds Hospital Alert has met with lead councillors pressing them to start reversing the outsourcing of home care without much success. Unison has been pressing the Council to extend the living wage to groups currently excluded and they have committed to increasing the personal allowance to enable people getting direct payment to pay the living wage to PAs. They say that they can’t insist private contractors pay the living wage.

Salford Activists, Unison and staff are campaigning for the Council to bring services back in house. Merseyside are going to give out the fliers on their own Dignity Day at the end of March and cleaners, security and catering staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, employed by OCS held a one day strike on 25th February over pay.

Green Party: Larry Sanders advised by e mail that “the Social Wellbeing Working Group of the Green Party will report to their June Conference. They are largely focused on making Public Health, a central focus for our health policy. They will also be recommending that Social Care be publicly funded and provided at all ages. Our general policy is that the 40 year shift in income, wealth and taxes in favour of the very rich makes it necessary to significantly increase taxes on their income and wealth”.

ACTION RE NEXT MEETING

  • Gordon will prep a short presentation on how the group in Haringey are going about trying to get the market out of Social Care and bring services back into the public sector/into public partnerships.
  • Richard Bourne will try to prepare a short piece on influencing Labour policy.
  • Brian Fisher will report on the initial thoughts of the Funding Sub-group.
  • It maybe Ealing Social Care Action Group can give us some thoughts on how we can co-ordinate campaigning to resist cuts to Personal Allowances in particular as well as other cuts to benefits and services.
  • Ann Bannister will take the lead with Brian and Gilda to put some proposals re the organisation of the Social Care group as an independent group affiliated to the HCT.
  • We should all bring thoughts and ideas about how we can build a lively campaign for Social Care both locally and nationally.
  • WE will be seeking volunteers for working groups on legal change and getting the market out of Social Care.

Please note these are abridged notes of the full minutes of the meeting.

Rod Downing - Retired Members Secretary


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