The Prime Minister campaigned on a platform to ensure the UK left the EU by 31 January 2020, and, following the UK’s official movement into the transition period, he has accomplished this goal.
However, this is no time to sit back and breathe. While the political conversation has been intensely focused on Brexit for nearly four years, the issues affecting some of the most vulnerable people in our country have been neglected.
We are calling on politicians of all political parties and positions to work with us to move the public and parliamentary focus onto the pressing domestic agenda.
4 Years of No Action
The referendum result was nearly four years ago, yet such little work has been done politically to tackle two social injustices affecting older people: the social care crisis and pensioner poverty.
“We were spending more than £3,000 a month on care for my husband. Free personal care would help the most vulnerable, and it would enable people to stay out of hospital.” Margaret
In June 2017 Theresa May won the snap general election, forming a minority government and pressing on with the first round of negotiations with the EU. But while the UK was negotiating its withdrawal agreement, tens of thousands of older people have had to negotiate selling their homes to pay for care.
In total, since June 2017, over 42,000 homes have been sold to pay for care. The social care system is unfair and not fit for purpose. Yet, not helped by the constant distraction of Brexit, there has been repeated delay on a solution to this grave injustice. The social care green paper - announced by the Government in 2017 which promised to find a way to reform the system - was delayed 5 times.
Now that Boris Johnson has announced that Brexit is done, it is time to join Independent Age in calling for true social care reform - by making personal care free at the point of use for all older people.
“I was a nurse in the NHS. I don’t know why I got a lower pension. I needed healthier food, but I had to buy the cheapest, whatever was available. After receiving Pension Credit, I could eat better, be healthier, and be warmer.” Anisah
Whilst parliament has vigorously debated the merits of different types of Brexit, older people have had to debate whether to heat their homes or put on an extra layer to stay warm.
Pension Credit take-up rates, a vital benefit that tops up your pension to lift you out of poverty, are stagnant – with successive Governments failing to raise take-up over 64% in almost 10 years. Whilst the Government has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on preparing for Brexit, vast sums of pension credit are being missed out on. According to the DWPs latest statistics, the annual amount of Pension Credit that goes unclaimed is £3.5 billion. This money was ring-fenced to lift the poorest pensioners out of poverty and is instead simply returned to Government funds.
Meanwhile, pensioner poverty has been on rise across the past decade – with noticeable increases since the referendum.
Rather than debating the merits of a hard or soft Brexit, we now must debate how to improve the take-up of Pension Credit and lift older people out of poverty.
How You Can Get Involved
We can’t refocus the narrative alone. To make the shift to domestic priorities and the issues affecting older people, we need as much political weight behind this as we can get.
Whether you’re an MP, councillor or a member of the public; a socialist, conservative or somewhere in between, your voice is essential to improve the lives of older people.
Brexit has undoubtedly divided many people in our country, but it is up to us if we will let it continue to do so. With the Brexit deal passed, we must coalesce around a greater social movement to create a better deal for older people. A deal where older people can live free from poverty, with appropriate care, and live healthier, happier lives.
If you are a politician, or are a member of staff, and would like to get involved then please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a member of the public, your help is just a valuable. Sign up to be an Independent Age campaigner, and raise awareness of the challenges affecting older people to your local MP, councillors and your community.