Friday, October 26, 2012

Lord Rich arse wants to rob old people

 READY and willing, not to be ripped off and exploited, but to fight 
for future generation's 
rights as well as our own.
Pensioners and disabled 
waiting to join TUC 
October 20 demonstration.  

 IT was bound to come, I suppose.

WE have seen young people, even with qualifications, forced to do dead-end, boring jobs without even a wage just so they can receive their dole money.

We have seen sick and disabled people, sometimes terminally ill,  passed as supposedly fit for work just so they can be deprived of their benefits. If the government was interested in getting people into work why would it be closing Remploy? Getting people off benefit is a profitable business. What happens to them next is of no interest, to those in power.

So who is next?

Why obviously the elderly. We have already heard the threats to travel passes and fuel allowance, and been told that we are living too long, so the pension age must be raised, That way fewer of us will live to see what we have worked for, and those that do will have fewer years to enjoy it.

But that is not enough for Lord Bichard. He thinks you should work for your pensions. Lord Bichard is not a Tory. A former senior civil sevant, he sits as a crossbencher in the Lords, and apparently he is a big mate of Lord Blunkett, whom you may remember as a New Labour minsiter though us old fogies can still remember when he was a socialist.

Michael Bichard is a former head of the Benefits Agency (1990-95) and later the head of the Employment Agency (1995-2001). His great idea, bashing pensiners for Cameron's Big Society is that the retired should be forced to work for their state pensions and stop being a "burden on the state". He is kind enough to suggest pensioners could work for charities, or as carers, ignorant perhaps of the fact that many already do just that.

"Are we using all of the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?" he says. "We are now prepared to say to people who are not looking for work, if you don't look for work you don't get benefits, so if you are old and you are not contributing in some way or another maybe there is some penalty attached to that."

Now, I am old fashioned enough to think that we worked for our pensions all our life. That like unemployment or sickness benefit it comes under national insurance, or in this case, assurance. When the time grew near for my state pension I was told it would be a reduced amount, because back in the 1970s an unscrupulous employer had failed to pay my stamp , and I'd been too busy to notice. Some would say your pension, whether state or occupational, is simply backpay. Or money which was borrowed from you and is due to be repaid, though as we have seen, some bosses regard it as their own to play with, and make disappear. Nowadays they have not even got the decency to go over the side of their yachts off Tenerife.

As for the state pension, in this country it  works out at just 17% of average earnings, whilst the value  of state pensions across the rest of Western Europe are above 40%, If you are getting an additional pension from your old job or are still doing a bit of work you are liable for income tax. Any additional benefits you receive such as for housing costs or council tax are means tested.. The trick of those who put labels on things it seems to me is to call things like pensions "benefits" and imply they are some kind of hand-out which ought at least to be means tested. Those in receipt can then be at best patronised if we are deemed "deserving", or denounced as scroungers, Lord Bichard says we are a "burden" - that is something  to be resented if not got rid of.

Were his ideas accepted and became policy then presumably somebody would have to assess whether pensioners were fit for work. Having seen the way this is done with other people taken off benefit it would be a great opportunity for Atos or another company to expand its business interviewing pensioners and declaring them fit, so that instead of paying out money to pensioners the taxpayers (which by the way includes pensioners one way or another) would be paying billions to the company. Further costs would be incurred when these decisions were overturned in court, as happens with many disability decisions, though I suppose some might be saved by the number of old people who get ill from stress, commit suicide or simply pop their clogs before their case comes up. That's one way the "burden on the state" can be reduced.

But even if the assessment was fair, and not outsourced to profiteering companies, why should people have to work for money they have already earned? Your pension is your money, so anyone withholding it would be robbing you.

If someone wants to do some paid work on top of their pension and is fit then good luck to them. They may be passing on their experience and skills to younger people. Unfortunately some people are having to carry on working or take cleaning jobs etc because they need the money, and the government raising the pension age is not helping

As it is a large number of pensioners are at present doing low paid or unpaid work in the charitable or "voluntary" sector. You only have to look in the window of those charity shops that have filled empty high streets and see who is working, or remember those two ladies who served tea for your Hospital Friends till the big chains were let in. Millions more pensioners work as carers and child minders. But is Cameron's 'Big Society' interested in voluntary work that is really voluntary, and will government or its business partners recognise that someone caring for a family member or neighbour, or looking after kids is contributing to society?

We have already seen the young woman who thought she might put her education to use and gain relevant work experience working in a local museum, taken out of that and sent to sweep aisles in a supermarket for her unemployment benefit. And the young 'volunteers' left to sleep under the bridge before working all day for the Jubilee. Is this now to be inflicted on pensioners? And what does it do to encourage companies getting free labour to think of retaining paid staff let alone creating real jobs?
paid jobs?

Incidentally, Bichard himself was a top "Sir Humphrey" in the civil service till he retired at the age of 54 on an index linked pension estimated to be worth £120,000 a year. He collects a taxpayer funded pension of over £2,300 a week. But he thinks people on state pensions of little more that £100 a week should be compelled to work for their pittance.

Talking of voluntary service, some old people round my way have not only been campaigning to keep their local library, which they share with local kids as the main users, but tried to keep it running after  the council made its cuts.  A mate of mine retired from the civil service on somewhat less than the pension paid to Lord Bichard has been keeping busy giving advice to unemployed people and tenants.  And then there are the numerous pensions campaigners and retired union activists who are nowadays fighting not just for their own welfare, but even more for the kind of society and conditions we bequeath to future generations.

But I would guess that is not the sort of unpaid  work for the community that the government or Lord Bichard have in mind - except in wanting to stop us from doing it. They probably think that most old people are conservative and anyway, won't put up much of a fight. It is time to disabuse them of such complacency.

See also:

  • Old Age Pensioners and others concerned at soaring fuel prices and the cost of keeping warm this Winter are going to gather in the Westfield shopping centre at Stratford 12 noon tomorrow.
  • Greater London Pensioners Association has its conference on Saturday 3rd November 2012 from 10a.m. to 3.30p.m.
Entrance £3 including Buffet Lunch



Speakers: Dr. John Lister - Health Emergency
Prof. Steve Iliffe - Social Care for the Elderly
Karen Jennings - Asst. Gen. Sec. UNISON
Caroline Pigeon - GLA Assembly Member - Transport




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