Hands off universal pensioner benefits

By Agnes McGroarty from the Scottish Seniors Alliance

‘Hands Off’ is the clear message coming from older people across Scotland, as a new UK wide campaign was launched last month defending the need for universal pensioner benefits.

Agnes McGroarty

Agnes McGroarty

The Hands Off campaign, which has already been backed by some of the most influential older people’s organisations in the UK, aims to safeguard benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions and TV licences after the 2015 general election.

Following comments made by the main political parties at Westminster indicating these benefits may be under threat, this campaign will emphasise their importance in achieving a decent standard of living for millions of pensioners across the UK, whilst also highlighting the costs and barriers associated with means-testing such benefits.

I would encourage people of all ages to sign the online e-petition and to email their local MP via the campaign website at www.handsoff.org.uk. If the e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Clearly, a debate would raise the profile of this issue with the current coalition government and amongst other UK political parties who may be in power following the 2015 general election. The real reason why pensioners need additional benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass is because our state pension is so poor. Yet despite this, every year older people add an extra £40bn to the economy in taxes, volunteering and unpaid caring. Universal benefits help to keep people active, independent, warm in their homes, healthy and involved in their communities. Universal benefits need to be defended not only for today’s pensioners, but for the pensioners of tomorrow as well.

During the last year, pensioners have felt under constant attack. The myth that older people have escaped any austerity measures is totally groundless, and we will fight to ensure there are no further cuts or means testing of vital benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions or TV licences. We call on every individual, regardless of age, to support us in our campaign to ensure these benefits are maintained for pensioners now and in the years to come.

We must make our voice heard now! Millionaire pensioners have been used as justification for further cuts or means-testing, but this campaign represents the views of real pensioners who are already struggling to make ends meet.

The Hands Off campaign is being officially backed by the Scottish Seniors Alliance, the National Pensioners’ Convention, Age Sector Platform in Northern Ireland and the Welsh Senate of Older People. For more information on the campaign, and to sign the e-petition, please visit www.handsoff.org.uk.

This was taken from our Magazine Advantage. Soap Box columns do not necessarily reflect Age Scotland’s views or policies. To submit an article call Advantage on 0845 833 0200 or email advantage@agescotland.org.uk.