Budget should help pensioners skipping meals to heat their homes

15 April 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
Newly merged charities Age Concern and Help the Aged are calling on the Government to announce a package of measures in next week's Budget that will help elderly people who are skipping meals to save money.

One in four older people say that their quality of life has deteriorated in the last 12 months, so the Budget must address the 'disproportionate' impact the recession is having on pensioners, the charity has said.

The One Voice Report from Age Concern and Help the Aged found that a rising number of pensioners (36 per cent) have admitted they do not heat all the rooms in their home in a bid to save money, while others cannot afford enough food.

Those who rely on their life savings to bring in an income have been hit by the recent falls in interest rates, while the effect of the recession on the stock market is taking its toll on their investment incomes.

Government measures should include emergency funding for the social care system, help for those on limited pensions, low incomes and those with minimal savings, an energy efficiency drive to eradicate fuel poverty, and an obligation put on the banks to ensure local branches make bank services available to all communities.

As a majority stakeholder in several major banks, the Government is in an ideal position to ensure that everyone has access to banking facilities, the charities said, which would require just a fraction of the funds pumped into the economy to prop up the banks.

The over 50s are those hardest hit by unemployment, seeing a 34.8 per cent rise in the last year, higher than any other age group, so the Budget must include measures to help them get back to work, Age Concern and Help the Aged said.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, pensioners are facing a much higher rate of inflation than the general population, with those aged 80 or older seeing an inflation rate of 6.7 per cent, more than four times higher than average, as food and fuel – which account for the majority of pensioners' outgoings – remain expensive.

"Loneliness‚ depression‚ poverty and neglect blight the lives of millions of older people and for many‚ evidence shows the situation is getting worse‚ not better," said Michelle Mitchell‚ charity director for Age Concern and Help the Aged.

"Despite the economic conditions dominating the headlines‚ the current Government and all political parties must not shy away from addressing the long term challenges of an ageing society. Beneath the shocking statistics are real life human tragedies - avoiding the issues is no longer an option."

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