Weren’t born on the same day as your partner? You’re still unlucky.

Blog by Age Scotland’s Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil


In a previous blog post, we highlighted massively unfair changes being made to Pension Credit. Well there is another looming deadline for couples who may be affected by the changes: the 13th of August is the last day you’ll be able to make a backdated claim for Pension Credit. 

So what does this mean?

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 of 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. You can still make a claim, which will be backdated, until the 13th August.

This is something we can help with, call our helpline and speak to one of our friendly advisors who can 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.

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Our advisors are here to help. Just call 0800 12 44 222 and one of our team will talk you through the process.

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.

Whatever later life brings, we’re here to help

Rachel is an adviser with the Age Scotland helpline. She recently had a caller who lives on her own in a private rental property and is of state pension age. The caller was finding money quite tight and spoke to Rachel about getting a benefits check. Rachel identified £90 a week in housing benefits that the caller wasn’t aware that she could claim. The caller was also able to get the entitlement backdated and so will receive a lump sum to help her. That extra money will make a real difference to her quality of life.

Navigating entitlements and helping callers access them is just one of the ways that our team can support older people, their families and carers. The Age Scotland Helpline is the flagship advice service for Scotland’s older people to help with any challenges they may face.

Our Community Connecting service is also based within the helpline. Volunteers work to combat loneliness and isolation by supporting older people to explore interests and take up new hobbies. Through regular calls of support and encouragement and by doing research into what is available, our volunteers help older people to get involved in lunch clubs and social activities in their local area. There is no typical caller. It could be someone who has recently retired and wants to pick up a new hobby. Or it could be someone who has been socially isolated for months and is ready to take that first step and meet new people in their area.

One caller who got in touch said that her life had been turned upside down by the death of her husband. She felt incredibly isolated. She had never contacted a helpline before but was looking for any kind of support she could find. Through regular calls our volunteer was able to get to know the caller’s interests and encourage her to try a local club. The caller went on to sign up for a befriending service as well as an I.T. class to help her develop skills online.

Later life can bring many challenges but it also brings opportunities. If you or someone you know could benefit from the support offered by our helpline or community connecting teams, please get in touch on 0800 12 44 222. It’s free to call and open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

We’re here to help.

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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.

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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.

Later life in Scotland: Taking the long view’

On the 20th of March Age Scotland members, guest speakers and invited guests will come together at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow for our fourth National Conference. Elizabeth Bryan, Age Scotland’s Community Development Coordinator, shares the thinking behind this year’s theme ‘Later life in Scotland: Taking the long view’.


Age Scotland is proud to work with and for older people, including supporting our member groups as they work to make a difference in their communities across Scotland. For many years older people have come together to support their local community, used their collective voice to campaign for change, and worked to improve later life for future generations.

Our predecessor charity, the Scottish Old People’s Welfare Committee, was established in 1943, later becoming Age Concern Scotland and more recently renamed Age Scotland following the merger with Help the Aged. 2018 will be Age Scotland’s 75th birthday.

Big anniversaries offer us a chance to reflect, so at our national conference with the help of our guest speakers and workshop presenters we will explore the changes that have taken place and the progress that has been made in Scotland in relation to later life over the past 75 years. We will also honour the commitment and achievements of older people’s groups, and discuss what would make life better for older people today and in the future.

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There will be a variety of information stalls, time for our member groups to network and share their learnings with each other and a number of interactive workshops.

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The conference will culminate in the presentation of the 2018 Age Scotland Awards to recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contribution individuals and organisations make to ensuring Scotland is a good place to grow old in. We’re delighted to be joined by Jackie Bird to present the Age Scotland Awards.

We look forward to welcoming Age Scotland member groups and guests from across Scotland for a day of discussion, networking and celebration. It’s set to be a fantastic day and is already over-subscribed! You can follow discussions on the day on our social media channels.


To find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member, please contact members@agescotland.org.uk

Money Matters: a new Age Scotland project

Age Scotland has received funding from the Money Advice Service for a new project: until February 2018 we are offering older peoples’ groups a choice of Money Matters roadshows.

We have four new people in the team: Jessica Shields our Evaluation officer, Fiona Scott our Project assistant, Cheryl Fowler who will be delivering most of our roadshows and Sam Longden who will support helpline advisers and improve our information about money matters.

We can deliver roadshows on a choice of subjects:

Benefit entitlements – did you know that 1/3 of people who are entitled don’t claim Pension Credit? Could you be missing out? Do you know how many ways there are to get help with your council tax bill? Might you be entitled to Attendance Allowance?

Care costs and funding – what does care cost? If you qualify for free personal and nursing care what is actually free? Is it true that most people have to sell their house?

Power of Attorney – what types are there? How do you choose your attorney? What are your responsibilities if you are an attorney and where can you get advice?

Wills and funeral costs – why should you write a will? Do you know what a funeral costs? How much help is available from the government? How can you save money on costs?

Planning for and managing financial changes – does your group support people who face particular challenges with money because of caring responsibilities, health issues or bereavement? We can look at how best you can manage financial issues which affect you, and learn from you too.

After the roadshows, people can call the Age Scotland helpline, 0800 12 44 222 for a confidential conversation with an adviser.

The aim of the project is to find out “what works”. So we will be working with you to find out what you know before and after roadshows, seeing how many people make follow-up calls to our helpline and, if you agree, contacting you afterwards to find out if you did take steps to claim a benefit, take out a Power of Attorney or plan for funeral costs. We really need the feedback about what worked and what didn’t work, and we will adapt our roadshows and information in response to what we learn from you.

We are looking for some groups to help us to develop our training and information, and we will also be asking professionals who work with older people what money issues they are raising, what they know about money concerns for older people and what would support them to guide older people to find advice and help.

For more information or to book a roadshow call the Age Scotland switchboard on 0333 323 2400 or email the team

Protecting those with dementia from scams

Today, 15th June, is World Elder Abuse Day – a day which aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of older generations. The 2017 theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation.

In his guest blog Paul Holland, Principal Prevention Officer with East Renfrewshire Council talks about an upcoming project to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation.


On World Elder Abuse Day it is important to recognise tackling scams and protecting older people from financial harm as a big part of promoting a good later life for all. This is something I am very much aware of in my role in The Prevention Team for East Renfrewshire Council.  I have seen the terrible consequences of older people being the victims of scams, but I’ve also seen the benefits to older people of taking relatively simple measures to protect them from nuisance calls and scammers.

Seeing the benefits to older people of protecting them from scammers made me determined to ensure that more is done throughout Scotland to protect vulnerable people from financial abuse. That’s why I am delighted to be the Co-Ordinator of a new project funded by the Life Changes Trust to work in collaboration with Angus and South Ayrshire Council, to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation. We are also looking forward to working with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project to ensure the Charity’s member groups have more information about our work, as it will benefit very many older people and not only people with dementia.

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers. Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

It’s vital that all adults know about what can be done to protect themselves from scams, particularly older adults, as unfortunately it is often older people who are targeted, and scammers are becoming increasing sophisticated. You can find out more about our activity to stop scams on our website. This provides advice if you are worried that you, a friend or a relative may be vulnerable to scams; tired of cold callers at the door and on the phone; looking to hire reputable traders; or want to know how to keep safe and secure in the home and online.

Over the course of our project we are also looking forward to developing more advice and information for the Charity’s member groups. Working together there is a lot we can do to stop the scammers and ensure that there are fewer victims of financial abuse.

If you have been a victim of a scam or want advice about a suspicious contact telephone Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.  If in doubt check it out!

 

 

 

A New Future for Social Security – Age Scotland submission

Age Scotland has put forward an wide-ranging submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future for social security in Scotland.

The charity endorses the basic principle that social security should be seen as an investment in the people of Scotland and in strengthening our social fabric.  We propose models which should exhibit trust in people and respect for their dignity.

We advocate an end to rules which are probably discriminatory based on age – such as the lack of a mobility component for attendance allowance, unlike other disability benefits – and we support the principle that universal winter fuel payments are the most effective means of reaching those most in need of support.

The submission is extensive, comprising some 56 pages, although the consultation paper was over 140 pages long and posed over 170 questions.  It is the most detailed policy submission which the charity or its predecessors have ever compiled.

The submission gives the charity’s perspective on a wide range of specific benefits affecting older people which are being devolved (including disability and carer’s benefits, funeral payments, and winter fuel payments).

It also deals with a series of administrative matters on how eligibility should be worked out, how benefits should be paid, and the overarching principles and intended outcomes which should be a focus for the new system.

Another important aspect is ensuring that the new devolved system works well with the other benefits which will remain reserved to the UK Parliament and Government, and administered by the DWP, JobCentres and the Pension Service.  Clearly it is important for there to be no disruption to payments on which vulnerable people depend, either as the responsibility is transferred or as changes the Scottish Government intends to make are implemented.

The response was informed by the views and experiences of older people themselves, which we gathered at eight distinct consultation events around the country, and also the expertise of our policy staff and helpline advisors, who regularly support older people with benefits concerns and queries.  We aim to use this invaluable information in our further discussions with Government Ministers and officials as the policies take shape and legislation is prepared to give effect to them.

Download our submission


Please feel free to share any views you have by emailing policycomms@agescotland.org.uk

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

Now & Next: Planning for later life with Age Scotland

Age Scotland’s chief exec Brian Sloan explains why to truly love later life, you have to be prepared, as we launch our new brand for those aged 50-65.


 

“You get training at every stage in life except for retirement”. This was the opening line by Helen, a volunteer who was running a Planning for Your Future workshop, and around the room you could see the sentiment resonating.

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You go to school to train for college or work. Once in work, you never stop training to keep abreast of health and safety, company policy or any of the myriad of ways that help you to do your job. Yet when you retire, you’re given your leaving present and off you go. For most people, this means going from a structured 40 hour week to absolutely nothing; you’ve looked forward to retirement for years, now off you go and do it. Yet retirement isn’t a thing you can just do, and that’s where Age Scotland can help.

In July 2014, the former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the Tayside Pre-retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland. Since then, we have been offering Planning for Your Future workshops aimed at the 50-65 age demographic. It might be a bit of a stretch to get your head around but an older people’s charity was after a younger demographic! Up until that point, Age Scotland was seen as a charity for the over 65s, but to truly love later life then you need to start planning well before then. So we gave the format a revamp to make it more interactive, relevant and thought provoking for today’s 21st century 50-65 year old and created Now & Next as the brand identity to speak to this audience.

Now and Next

When I’ve been along to workshops, I hear so many people say they that they had hopes for retirement but were not sure how to achieve them. And whilst these workshops can’t promise to make your dreams come true, they can at least help you plan a course of action to achieving them. Whether it is financial, legal or health goals, if you only start planning the day before you retire you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Helen is one of the volunteers that helps to facilitate the "Planning for Later Life" workshops.

Helen is one of our volunteers that helps to facilitate the “Planning for Later Life” workshops. Click here to find out more.

What’s more important is that planning for later life is not just about you. Living a balanced, happy and healthy retirement means you can improve the quality of life of those around you. Looking after grandkids, supporting your children or giving back to your community, later life should be the time you do what you want to do, so get on and plan it! If you want to know more about Now & Next visit our website, nowandnext.scot or watch Helen’s story (above). She’s one of the many volunteers who run our workshops, someone who has learned from the mistakes she made by not planning more carefully in advance and wants to help others step positively into their next life stage.


 

If you would like to find out more about Now and Next or the Planning for Later Life courses, just contact Stacey Kitzinger on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.