Hands Off universal pensioner benefits

Hands Off universal pensioner benefits

‘Hands Off’ is the clear message coming from older people in Northern Ireland and across the UK, as a new nation‑wide campaign is launched today defending the need for benefits such as the winter fuel payment and bus pass.

The ‘Hands Off’ campaign, which has already been backed by some of the most influential older people’s organisations in the UK, aims to safeguard benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions and TV licences after the 2015 general election.

Following comments made by the main political parties at Westminster indicating these benefits may be under threat, the campaign will emphasise their importance in achieving a decent standard of living for millions of pensioners across the UK, whilst also highlighting the costs and barriers associated with means-testing such benefits.

People of all ages are encouraged to sign the online e-petition and to email their local MP via the campaign website at www.handsoff.org.uk.

The ‘Hands Off’ campaign is being officially backed by Age Sector Platform in Northern Ireland, the National Pensioners’ Convention, the Welsh Senate of Older People and the Scottish Seniors Alliance.

Nixon Armstrong from Age Sector Platform commented: “During the last year, pensioners have felt under constant attack. The myth that older people have escaped any austerity measures is totally groundless, and we will fight to ensure there are no further cuts or means‑testing of vital benefits such as the winter fuel payment, bus pass, free prescriptions or TV licences. We call on every individual, regardless of age, to support us in our campaign to ensure these benefits are maintained for pensioners now and in the years to come.”

Dot Gibson from the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “The real reason why pensioners need additional benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass is because our state pension is so poor. Yet despite this, every year older people add an extra £40bn to the economy in taxes, volunteering and unpaid caring. Universal benefits help to keep people active, independent, warm in their homes, healthy and involved in their communities. Removing universal benefits isn’t about saving money or about stopping millionaires from getting a free ride on their local bus – it’s about undermining the welfare state and the principle that services should be available to everyone in retirement. Universal benefits need to be defended not only for today’s pensioners, but for the pensioners of tomorrow as well.”

John Vincent from the Welsh Senate of Older People commented: “We are very conscious of the unfair allegations that pensioners are not touched by austerity measures. We obviously are affected in many ways. People who make these allegations seem to conveniently forget that many of today's pensioners experienced real hardship during the war years and all of us can remember the austerity of the post-war period. Pensioners are tired of feeling like a burden on society; we make a huge contribution and that surely should be recognised?”

Agnes McGroarty from the Scottish Seniors Alliance said: “All of the main political parties at Westminster have indicated that universal pensioner benefits may be under threat following the next general election, so we must make our voice heard now. Millionaire pensioners have been used as justification for further cuts or means-testing, but this campaign represents the views of real pensioners who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

For more information on the campaign, visit www.handsoff.org.uk.