Lambeg chairman of the Age Platform is urging people to support a new UK wide campaign launched recently defending the need for pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel payments, free prescriptions, TV licences and free travel.
Francis Hughes, said that the ‘Hands Off’ campaign, is supported by Age Sector Platform as well as other charities throughout the UK, to safeguard pensioner benefits, after the 2015 general election.
Francis, recently went to Westminster along with representatives of other groups to lobby MPs at the House of Lords, emphasising to them the importance in achieving a decent standard of living for pensioners across the UK, whilst also highlighting the costs and barriers associated with means-testing such benefits.
“We are very conscious of the unfair allegations put about that pensioners are not touched by austerity measures,” said Francis. “Anything by the government that is put about that the older people are a drain on our society and cost much more than they contribute is simply untrue. Many even though they are retired act as carers or look after young children in their family. They are very useful.”
Francis who has always been interested in older people’s issues has a trade union background and worked for many years in the Inland Revenue. He was heavily involved in the successful ‘Can’t Heat and Eat’ campaign in 2008 where he was among hundreds of people who went to Stormont to lobby MLAs over pensioners issues.
Mr Hughes said that their fight this time will be 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.
“Winter fuel for pensioners has been cut from £300 to £200 which would not fill an oil tank, over time and only paid per household instead of an individual basis,” he said. “Fuel payments should not be cut any further.
“There is also £2m of pension credit that goes unclaimed every week. Some people cannot be bothered going through the procedure of claiming and filling out forms and even to get a free licence for over 75s you need to claim. Some people just do not want to have to fill out a form to do that.
“If free travel is scrapped it would mean for many pensioners, social isolation. Some just get onto a train just to get out of the house.”
People are encouraged to sign the online e-petition at www.handsoff.org.uk.