Weren’t born on the same day as your partner? Unlucky.

Blog by Age Scotland Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil


Pension Credit is an important top up benefit for older people who are on a low pension income. It is already a massively under claimed entitlement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimating that 40% of those eligible for pension credit don’t claim it.

But now changes by the UK Government to the eligibility criteria will see more older people unable to claim and become poorer as a result.

This is the bit where you, and your dearest’s, birthday matters. If you’re what is called a ‘mixed aged couple’, in other words one of you is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their state pension age, you will no longer be able to claim pension credit. What, you mean you don’t have the same birthday and birth year as your partner? Weird!

To make matters worse, the basic Pension Credit rate for a couple is currently £248.80 a week, and the basic Universal Credit rate for a couple is only £114.85 a week.

And I hate to add further insult to injury, but Pension Credit is a ‘passporting benefit’. This means that it acts as a qualifying benefit for other forms of assistance, but as you won’t be able to claim Pension Credit until you both are of pensionable age then you can’t claim them. This includes cold weather payments, maximum help with housing benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and you’ll also be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, will not have access to claim social fund funeral payments, and may not be entitled to the warm home discount.

What are your options? Well you can either wait until the younger partner reaches their state pension age, or they can claim Universal Credit in the meantime as way to boost your joint income. This will mean they’ll be subjected to Universal Credit conditionality, for example, needing to prove that they are a carer, or that they’re seeking work for 35 hours a week, or that they’re not well enough to work. If you decide not to claim Universal Credit, and have no other income then you would be £133.95 a week worse off, potentially for several years.

This move is hugely unjust. With pensioner poverty on the rise, 29% of people aged 75 and over living on or just below the poverty line, and fuel poverty likely to increase.

The Age Scotland freephone helpline, which provides free information, friendship and advice is on hand to provide support to people over 50, their families, and carers. The changes for mixed aged couples won’t be introduced until May 15th 2019 so there is still time to start the Pension Credit claim process. This is something we can help with, call our helpline advisors and they can give you a free benefit check to see if you’re getting everything that you’re entitled to. In fact they can help with just about anything, they’re very knowledgeable- and friendly.

I implore you to call them, the changes to Pension Credit are a few months away and they can talk you through any entitlements you may be eligible for in great detail and how to claim them

If you’d also like to share your outrage about these changes, then we want to hear from you too. Sharing people’s real life stories is the best way to bring forward change so do get in touch with us.

Our helpline is free to call, and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.

Wordpress image

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland – out now

As we near UK Armed Forces Day (30 June) Age Scotland has launched a free advice guide for older veterans.

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland offers veterans a route map to embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges that later life can bring.  It’s available to download, and postal copies can be requested from the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.  Here’s a flavour of what it offers older veterans, their families and professionals working with and for them.

Being treated fairly

Did you know that each council and health board in Scotland has signed a promise to every veteran?  Known as the Armed Forces Covenant this says you “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens” and that “special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

Keeping well

Did you know that veterans are entitled to priority NHS treatment for health problems caused or made worse by military service? That means they should be seen more quickly than someone on the same waiting list who has the same level of clinical need.  There are NHS Veterans Champions you can speak to if you feel this hasn’t happened.

Care

When someone needs to move to a care home their social work department can carry out a financial assessment to see how much financial help they qualify for.  Did you know that if they are a veteran receiving War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments, these payments won’t be counted as income in the financial assessment?  This means they may be eligible for more funding.

Housing

Did you know that specialist housing for veterans is provided by a number of charitable organisations in Scotland – from single rooms to adapted family homes?  The guide includes a list of providers you can apply for housing with.

Money matters

The guide introduces the main benefits relevant to older veterans.  Benefits rules are complex and the guide will not give you all the answers.  It will however help you to ask the right questions, which you can then put to the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222.  In the first half of 2018, the helpline identified around £25,000 of unclaimed benefits for our veteran callers and their dependents.

Out and about

Did you know that veterans and their families can get discounts for many goods and services through the Defence Discount Service, the official MOD discount service for the UK’s armed forces and veterans?

Download the guide here or get a copy posted out for free by calling the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.

632x305_veterans-guide

Being aware of Scams

June 2018 is Scams Awareness Month – an annual opportunity to raise awareness of and tackle these cruel crimes. We hear from Emily Liddle, Campaigns Officer at Citizens Advice Scotland about what to look out for.


Spam emails, cold callers and suspicious activity alerts from your bank; unfortunately, scams and fraud seem to have become a part of our daily lives.

We want to reduce the risk and impact of scams by raising awareness and encouraging people to take action – recognising, reporting and talking about the issues.

Although anyone can be victim to a scam, there are certain groups in society that are more frequently targeted by scammers. Whether this is a young person being targeted via a social media pop-up tying them into a subscription trap or an older person who receives an unexpected visit on their doorstep from a trusted provider without credentials.

Scams aren’t just a minor inconvenience to people. Aside from financial loss, they can cause distress, misery and even if a scam has been avoided, it can lead to widespread loss of confidence.

Reporting a Crime

Underreporting and stigma continue to be barriers in scams and fraud. There are so many types of scams, with new scam tactics consistently emerging and tricking consumers; as well as scams that we don’t know about which makes it very difficult to help, prevent and support those who have fallen victim.

Whilst scammers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, groups of people continue to believe they would never fall victim, feeling they could easily spot a scam, or know how to act. It is this sense of confidence that scammers target and makes people vulnerable.

 

What should you look out for?

  • Beware of offers that use persuasive language to sell you a ‘once in a lifetime’ deal.
  • Be cautious providing bank details and personal information over the phone, especially if the caller has called to speak to you from an unknown number.
  • Always ask cold callers on your doorstep to provide credentials, don’t be afraid to check ID thoroughly. Never be afraid to say ‘no thank you’ and close the door.
  • Be wary of emails asking you to provide personal information or to login to an online site.
  • Look out for deals you click online that take you to separate website, is this site secure? Look for a small padlock symbol next to the address bar – this indicates the site is secure.

What should you do if you have been a scams target?

If you think you have been a victim of a scam or suspected scam, don’t be embarrassed. A scam could happen to anyone.

  • Get advice: from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 who can pass details on to Trading Standards.
  • Report: always report scams or suspected scams to Police Scotland on 101
  • Tell: friends, neighbours and relatives of any scams you become aware of
  • Go online: for advice on spotting, reporting and protecting yourself against scams: visit citizensadvice.org.uk/scotland/sam2018/

• • 75 is the average age of reported scams victims• Those over-70 have the highest reported detriment from a number of different types of scams • A third of all victims (1)

Scams Awareness Month is a campaign run by Citizens Advice Scotland in partnership with a number of partner consumer organisations such as Trading Standards Scotland, Citizens Advice, Advertising Standards Agency and Government.

Let’s focus on older veterans’ mental health

To mark mental health awareness week The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project highlights the mental health needs of older veterans.


First, a myth to bust.  It’s not common for military veterans to have combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Yes, it happens, and can be debilitating for those living with it.  Yet according to Scotland’s Veterans’ Commissioner ‘the vast majority of those leaving the military do so without severe mental health problems and cope well with the transition to civilian life.’

 

So, no need for concern?  Wrong.  There are almost a quarter of a million veterans in Scotland who have their share of mental health problems common in the wider population, including depression, general anxiety or stress related disorders.  Almost half of those veterans are aged 75 or older, and so are at more risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation as a result of the big life changes ageing can bring.

While mental health awareness is increasing in the military, older veterans will have left service at a time when understanding and support was much more limited.  The Veterans’ Commissioner has also highlighted how the ‘military is historically associated with a culture of heavy drinking’ and that, while much has been done within the military to shift behaviours, ‘alcohol misuse is still significantly higher than amongst the general population.’  And then there is the pride, stoicism and self-reliance instilled by military life: qualities that are advantageous while in service, but potentially disadvantageous when it comes to admitting vulnerability and seeking help in civilian life.

The good news is that there is a wide range of help and support to enable older veterans enjoy the best possible mental health and wellbeing, including Combat Stress and Veterans First Point.  Comradeship, the strong bonds forged in military service, can also support mental wellbeing among veterans.  Many of our partners in Unforgotten Forces make huge contributions to enabling isolated older veterans to enjoy comradeship, including Legion Scotland, Luminate, Poppyscotland, Music in Hospitals & Care, Erskine and Fares4Free.

Older veterans who have mental health problems arising from, or made worse by, their service, may be eligible for compensation from the Ministry of Defence.  Under the War Pension scheme, which applies to conditions related to service before 2005, there is no time limit for claims.  For such conditions veterans are also entitled to priority healthcare, meaning that they should be prioritised over to other patients with the same level of clinical need.  The Armed Services Advice Project can give advice where that may not have been the case.

Pre-order your free copy of The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland call 0800 12 44 222 or email publications@agescotland.org.uk.

Integrated logo for email updates

Haud the bus!

Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer, Simon Ritchie, is working with Transport Scotland to gather the views of older people on all things transport. This research is taking place via a series of Age Scotland Network Meetings right across Scotland in two phases – Spring and Autumn 2018.  Transport Scotland is reviewing the National Transport Strategy, first published in 2006, to ensure it meets the needs of society now and for the next twenty years.  

18342285_1440445112689121_8800983467175109032_nOn Saturday 24th March I travelled across the country to Helensburgh on the Eastern shore of the sparkling Gare Loch. I was on my way to a meeting of Grey Matters, a local Age Scotland Member group for older people which works to connect them with their community and ensure they have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. I was joined by my Community Development Team colleague, Charlie Murphy, as well as Daniel Lafferty and Jonathan Inglis from Transport Scotland.  They wanted to hear from the group members about their experiences and perspectives on public transport – feedback which will directly shape the revised National Transport Strategy for the next twenty years.

Scotland’s original National Transport Strategy was published in 2006. It had five main objectives:

  1. To promote economic growth
  2. To promise social inclusion
  3. To protect the environment and improve health
  4. Make journeys safer
  5. Improve integration in timetables and ticketing.

These objectives were to lead to three strategic outcomes: 1) improved journey times and connections, 2) reduced emissions and 3) improved quality, accessibility and affordability of public transport.

While its objectives remain every bit as relevant today as they were in 2006, it’s fair to say the world has changed considerably in twelve years, not least in terms of technology, and Scottish Ministers have decided that the time to shape a new National Transport Strategy is now.

Since 2016, Transport Scotland have been working with stakeholders to produce a loose framework for a revised NTS, or “NTS2” as it is referred to. 2018 will be the year that flesh is put onto the bones and that’s where our Age Scotland Network Meetings come in – we will be facilitating these presentations and collecting feedback from 18 Network Meetings right across Scotland this Spring and Autumn.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20180324115828896_COVER

Helensburgh was the first of these meetings. Daniel and Jonny kicked the meeting off with a presentation in which they gave an overview of Scotland’s transport system over the past 60 years. This helped to contextualise our current transport system and also showed how rapidly things can change.

Up next were questions for discussion. Group members were asked to share and discuss their views on questions such as “Why do we think transport is a vital issue for older people?” and “what do older people need from our transport system over the next 20 years? 

There was no shortage of constructive opinions and suggestions from the floor. Matters which were discussed included stop-skipping on our railways, limited evening bus service provision, dangerous accelerating and braking on buses, connections to hospitals and disabled access on trains and buses.

img_20180324_104711.jpg

Age Scotland is grateful to Transport Scotland for working with us to ensure that the voices of older people are listened to in shaping NTS2. We are also grateful to our Member Groups for allowing us the time in their meetings to discuss NTS2. Our first Meeting on 24th of March was a resounding success and we hope for a great turnout and engagement at forthcoming meetings around the country.

img_20180324_115820.jpg

Working with Transport Scotland and most importantly of all, the older people in our Member Groups, we at Age Scotland are looking forward to playing our part in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is the best it possibly can be for people of all ages – including older people who deserve an enjoyable, mobile and well-connected later life.


For more information please contact Simon Ritchie – Policy Engagement & Campaigns Officer at Age Scotland on 0131 668 8047 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk

 

Tackling isolation among older veterans

Loneliness and isolation can affect older people generally, but there can be additional challenges tackling it for veterans.  Often they miss social contact with other veterans, who understand their experiences, and with whom they can enjoy the bond of military comradeship.  Doug Anthoney from the Age Scotland Veterans’ Project visited a project in Motherwell that offers veterans just that.


A cold Friday morning and my taxi awaits by Glasgow Queen Street Station.  “Get in,” says the driver, “I got you a coffee.” If that doesn’t sound like an ordinary taxi, that’s because it isn’t.  David Gibson is both co-ordinator and a driver for Fares4Free: a charity that arranges taxis for veterans who are isolated and unable to get to important services, and one of Age Scotland’s partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium.  Today we’re off to the Veterans’ Café at Kings Church in Motherwell: VC@KC for short.

On the way we pick up Rosie, a nurse who supports veterans with health issues to attend the café for their first few weeks.  Today she’s off-duty however, and going because she’s a veteran herself.  We also collect a veteran who has been isolated and is going to the café for the first time.  As we drive it becomes clear that David’s service goes far beyond transport: he is a listening ear, information source and problem solver for veterans.  “Sometimes veterans wont’ share their problems for a long time,” he says.  “It’s only after you’ve been driving them for months, even years, that you’ll have built up the trust for them to tell you.”

DavidF4F March 2018

More than just transport; David offers a transport: listening ear, is a source of helpful information and a problem solver for veterans.

We arrive at the Café, and it’s buzzing.  There are over 40 veterans; some young, but most older.  I talk to one who did national service.  “I feel a bit guilty, not really a veteran like the others,” he says.  Julie Muir, who co-founded the café in 2015, says this is not uncommon.  “We had a man here who had served in military air traffic control; and he didn’t feel entitled.  We persuaded him that of course he was a veteran, and helped him get his service medal.  He and his family were so chuffed.”

Julie and her husband Scott left military service in 2002, but found resettlement hard and support structures inadequate.  “We thought, if we struggled with no debt, no kids, and no health problems, then how much harder will it be for veterans who face such problems.”

The café had a slow start.  “Initially there were more volunteers than veterans,” says Julie.  Attendance really picked up when they learned about veterans’ housing that was being built.  “We got a list of the houses and popped round with hampers for the veterans.  Now we have around 20 regulars, and there are about ten for whom it’s the only thing they go to.”

So why does it work? “We’ve learned that a military-style environment is the last thing you need,” says Julie.  “Some served for a few days, some for 22 years.  No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”  It also helps that it’s a café. “For some of the guys, they really don’t want to go near a bar!”

VC@KC March 2018.jpg

“No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”

The café is a hub for veterans’ services, including Unforgotten Forces partners such as the Armed Services Advice Project and Defence Medical Welfare Service.  It’s also about helping veterans’ families, including in some instances respite time for veterans’ carers.  “We’ve got new funding and plans to expand,” says Julie.  We want to offer more activities such as gardening and cooking.  Many of our veterans feel they’ve got a lot, now they would like to give back.”


To find out what the Veterans’ Project can do for older veterans, and for clubs, groups and services that would like to work with them, visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans.

Integrated logo for email updates.jpg

 

Introducing our man in the North: Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project

This autumn Steve Henderson joined Age Scotland as dedicated Community Development Officer for the charity’s new Veterans’ Project with a peripatetic remit spanning the north of Scotland.  We asked Steve, a veteran himself, about his background and aspirations for the project.


Steve joined the Army (Royal Regiment of Artillery) in 1983, with which he served as both soldier and officer until 2006.  He then moved with his family to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates where he worked on a ten-year military training management implementation programme.  After returning to UK early 2015, he eventually settled back home in Scotland and his career took a new direction with Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) Helmsdale. IMG_0073 (2).JPG

The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project attracted him because “following a successful military career I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to a community of veterans who have served before me.”   The need he anticipates among older members of the veterans’ community include loneliness and isolation.  “This is an issue in general, but it can be exacerbated by being a veteran,” he says.  “Veterans tend to speak a different language; they have their own ‘craic.’  There are some things they won’t feel comfortable speaking about in a civilian environment, but will talk to other veterans about.

“There can also be a culture of self-reliance that means you don’t go to the doctor unless your arm is falling off. Some veterans will only ask for help when they’ve reached crisis point.”

Sensory impairment is another problem.  “Ear protection for the military didn’t come in until late 1990s,” says Steve.  His own hearing has been affected by proximity to rocket launches.

Perhaps the biggest issue however is that many people who are entitled to additional help and support inadvertently miss out.  “Lots of individuals don’t class themselves as a veteran, particularly those who did national service.  We want to make sure that older veterans can benefit from all the help and support available via Age Scotland and from our Unforgotten Forces partner organisations.

Steve has been delighted with the response so far to the project at recent Age Scotland network meetings and in meetings with individual groups.  “People think it is money well spent: not least the fact that Aged Veterans’ Fund funding comes ultimately from LIBOR banking fines.”  Steve’s next steps are to engage with more groups, both among Age Scotland’s membership and within the veterans’ community.  “One of the things I’m keen to do is introduce these groups to each other, so that more veterans can benefit from all that’s on offer from the charity’s members,” says Steve.  “I will also be available to enable people to access the information and advice they need, and to deliver training where applicable.”

632x305_veterans_projectIf you are part of a community group in the North or North East of Scotland and would like to make contact with Steve, you can call him on 07808 024801 or email steve.henderson@agescotland.org.uk.   Visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans