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by Joanna Elson, CBE, Independent Age
14 December 2023
Associate Feature: Poverty-proofing later life

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Associate Feature: Poverty-proofing later life

No one should face financial hardship in later life. That is the vision of Independent Age, the organisation I joined as Chief Executive in September.

During a cost-of-living crisis, ending pensioner poverty might feel like an admirable yet unachievable goal – yet the need for ambitious action to reduce poverty in later life, from the
UK and Scottish Governments, has never been so great.

Every day at Independent Age we hear from older people struggling to make ends meet – living on inadequate incomes, experiencing rising costs and facing unaffordable housing. For many, the cost-of-living crisis is not new.

''I go to the food bank... I’m just £2 over the limit to get Pension Credit... I can’t go for a cup of tea with a friend. So, you forget it and live a quiet life.''

In the past decade the number of pensioners in poverty in Scotland has grown by 25% to 150,000, with many more hovering precariously above the poverty line.

Among this large group, some people face a greater risk of experiencing poverty in later life, including women, people with long-term conditions and disabilities, and a shocking 4 in 10 older private renters in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament can act to make housing affordable and support older people in financial hardship, like this person whose rent was increased:

''£30 per month. It’s a lot when you’re on a pension income and prices are rising.''
Scotland research participant

As winter deepens and older people’s budgets are squeezed, the Scottish Government will announce its Budget. We believe it must contain commitments to improve life for older people in financial hardship.

At the core of tackling pensioner poverty should be a national pensioner poverty strategy, designed to poverty-proof later life in Scotland.

That’s why it’s essential that the real-terms value of devolved social security payments is maintained.

And that’s why, like the other UK nations, Scotland needs an Older People’s Commissioner – a move backed by an overwhelming majority of older people and more than 30 national
organisations across Scotland.

Rising pensioner poverty is not inevitable – and ending it is not an admirable vision but an active mission. Through policy action we can halt and reverse the trend. A reality where no one in later life faces financial hardship is possible.

We know MSPs are doing all they can to directly support older constituents in financial hardship. Independent Age is on hand to provide free advice and information to older people facing financial hardship and their families, plus expert briefing and insight into how policy decisions affect older people.

This article is sponsored by Independant Age

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