Austerity is affecting us all, but what does it mean for us? Is it about successful ageing, life satisfaction and wellbeing? No. It means we must accept changes, changes that encompass psychological heath, and cognitive function, but what concerns us, and what we need most, is social, community, leisure, participation and inclusion. In short, by enduring the measures taken, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to enjoy all I’ve said before, and are helping the Government to repay its debts. We all do in every way, but we, as older people, are feeling the effects in more ways than some others. To use a simple analogy, let us take a look at prices at the supermarkets. The cost of almost every item has increased, and this is set to increase further once Britain exits the European markets. Quite aside from the expenditure in the supermarkets, is the cost of essential items such as electricity and gas, rents, petrol – for those who have cars – to name a few. These we all need for our very existence.
Where are older people placed in the scheme for these austerity cuts? What about our care? What about our well-being? I feel certain that you heard David Mowat when he was the Minister for Care say that families need to do more to care for their loved ones? He also alluded that people in work can have up to two years to take care of their parents. These people might have mortgages and other expenses. How do they meet their responsibilities if they are off work for two years? What if if we had no children? In one country the responsibility for older people lies squarely with the offsprings, who, if there are multiple siblings, muse each take time off work to do their turn to parent-sit. Employers have no choice but to comply.
I always ask where the money that we paid into the system has gone. In the Queen’s speech, not so long ago, it was mentioned that the Government would be consulting on the funding of social care. So our homes seem safe for now! That’s until someone else comes up with the notion that pensioners don’t need to have anything. Austerity has denied us the right to live, eat, and be comfortable, and to have as much care as is available.
Research shows that 20% of our pensioners are living in poverty, and about 60% exist on an income of £11.500. I am reminded here of the “Heat or Eat campaign” that LPF was engaged in many years ago. Some people I know heat one room only, and their meals are basic. Sadly, not much has changed since we had that campaign, and we continue to survive on cuts, cuts, and more cuts, whilst the prices of commodities continue to rise. The number of food distribution centres/and clubs has grown, as more people rely on them. More people now get their clothes, furniture, and the like, at the Charity shops. It is noticeable that there are more people living on the streets, and this is no longer men only, but also women. I often wonder why this is the case in Britain.
Local Governments have been forced to take austerity measures as a result of cuts in their funding. That has resulted a knock-on effect to what they can provide in their Boroughs. It affects the services they provide, for example services like the Handyman Service, which I was surprised to learn has been disbanded. So now we must go to Lewisham Homes for that service, for which we must pay £40 for half an hour. For some that’s not a lot, but many others would find it difficult to pay that fee.
BridgIt A Sam-Bailey (Ms)