Kerry McCarthy MP: Older people deserve better
Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy writes for the Fishponds Voice
LAST month we saw the latest broken promise to older people from the Government, as the BBC announced plans to revoke free TV licences for most over-75s from 2020. The broadcaster was forced to make this decision, which will affect 3.7 million people, due to Government cuts to its budget, despite the Tories pledging to maintain free TV licences for the over-75s at the last election.
For many older people, TV provides an important lifeline, with many saying it is their main source of company. Many constituents have contacted me to tell me how upset they are with this decision, and a petition to keep the free licences has at the time of writing already received 700,000 signatures.
While pensioners in receipt of the top-up benefit Pension Credit will still be exempt from paying the licence fee, many thousands of people entitled to Pension Credit are not claiming it, in part because the Government has not done enough to make them aware of their entitlement.
These issues may seem relatively minor when considered alongside the cuts we’ve seen to health and social care services over the last eight years: services which are particularly important to older people. People are struggling to access GP services and limits have been placed on operations such as hip replacements, knee surgery and hernia repair – meaning people in real need of treatment are being turned away.
The social care system in this country is simply not fit to meet the needs of an aging population. The Social Care Green Paper, to set out the Government’s plans for reform, was promised well over two years ago, yet has still not been published.
Local authorities like Bristol City Council are responsible for funding most adult social care, yet huge Government cuts to their budgets are leaving them unable to meet the needs of all local people. In many cases, this means that responsibility for providing care is taken on by relatives or friends, with women most often left to pick up the pieces.
Here in Fishponds we are also fortunate to have some fantastic organisations who have older peoples’ needs at heart.
Churches provide many opportunities for older people to meet through lunch clubs and occasional activities, and social groups also regularly take place at Fishponds library. Bristol Ageing Better is also working to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol and has appointed Community Champions for the Greater Fishponds area to raise awareness of existing services and develop new activities where there are gaps.
As an Age UK Age Champion, I am committed to holding the Government to account over policy changes affecting older people and am always keen to hear from constituents about the issues that matter most. If you would like to get in touch, you can do so by calling my office on 0117 939 9901, emailing email@example.com or writing to me at the House of Commons.