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Friday, 22 January 2016

Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on "intergenerational fairness"

The Work and Pensions Committee launches a major new inquiry on "intergenerational fairness" – the question of whether the current generation of people in or approaching retirement will over the course of their lifetimes have enjoyed and accumulated much more housing and financial wealth, public service usage, and welfare and pension entitlements than more recent generations can hope to receive.

More details from the Parliament website.

'Scrap triple lock to fund social care' - NHS boss

Tony Mulhearn, Merseyside ARMS committee member, proposed this motion to the Merseyside Pensioners Association (MPA), who passed it.

This MPA expresses grave concern at the proposal by Simon Stevens NHS chief executive that David Cameron's administration should look at all the options for finding the billions of pounds needed to fund social care, including revisiting the triple lock, which guarantees Britain’s pensioners so-called 'generous' annual increases in their state pension until 2020.

He argues that one of the main questions in tackling the challenge of how to pay for and look after an ageing population was whether some of the money spent on increasing state pensions should instead be allocated for social care and also the government should be prepared to risk upsetting Britain's growing army of senior citizens by looking at whether the benefits they receive are fair to working-age and younger people.

Recognising that UK pensioners are paid the lowest in the European Union and the current crisis was caused by the bankers and financiers we condemn this proposal, and believe pensions should be increased and not attacked, and we deplore yet another attempt to drive a wedge between the young and the pensioners.

We call on the NPC to declare its strong opposition to this suggestion and resolve to contact our MPs and to register our opposition.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Not too late for a 2016 PCS diary


A small number of PCS diaries are available from the PCS office in Liverpool. To obtain one, please contact:
  • PCS NW Regional Centre, 3rd floor, Jack Jones House, Islington, Liverpool, L3 8EG
  • Tel: 0151 298 3900
  • E-mail: NWRC@pcs.org.uk

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The clock is ticking on UK steel – help save it now

A message from Unite:

This week Britain’s steel industry was dealt another devastating blow as a further 1,050 job losses were announced by Tata Steel and 100 losses at Sheffield Forgemasters taking the toll of job losses in recent months to over 5,000.

Port Talbot, Llanwern, Trostre, Corby, Hartlepool and Sheffield have become the latest communities to be hit by the crisis engulfing the industry, while steel workers from Motherwell to Redcar and Rotherham to Scunthorpe are counting the cost of closures and job losses.

Unite is pulling out all the stops, pressing the government to put words into action and to step up to the plate to save our steel. They stepped in to bail out the banks, now minsters must put words into action and support our steel industry.

We need your help to spread the word and keep the pressure up to save our steel. As our latest animated film ‘The clock is ticking’ shows, losing our steel industry will have a devastating effect on jobs, our communities and our future.

Please watch the film, share it on social media and sign and share The Mirror’s petition.

Together we can save our steel!

Thank you

Tony Burke
Unite assistant general secretary

News updates - from the web

MPs to review 'triple lock' in pension fairness probe - here.

Cameron hits back at state pension protest - here.

FCA investigates copycat Pension Wise website - here.

Energy prices: Six in ten elderly people skimp on heating to cut winter fuel bills - here.

Cold weather prompts health warning for ill and older people - here.

MPs to grill Altmann over state pension changes - here.

Yoga improves balance and mobility for older people - here.

Irregular heartbeat 'riskier for women' - here.

Dementia patients face 'Russian roulette' in hospital - here.

Energy bills, the Big Six and the scandal of people dying of cold in their own homes - here.

NHS chief demands political consensus on funding elderly and social care - here.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The truth about the junior doctors’ dispute - BMA

A message about the dispute from the BMA. Click here for a map showing where picket lines will be.

The Government is threatening the future of the NHS. They want to remove safety measures that stop junior doctors from working excessive hours. They want to force through a contract on junior doctors which threatens the quality of care patients receive. Junior doctors don’t want to strike, but the Government has left us with no alternative.

What is a junior doctor? 

The term junior doctor is misleading. Mostly in our late 20s and 30s, we are fully-qualified professionals and the backbone of the NHS. Junior doctors are in training for up to 15 years. We’re on our way to becoming GPs, consultants, medical researchers and lecturers for the next generation of doctors. We are often the first doctor you see when you go to hospital. Like you, many of us are also parents and carers, juggling our professional lives with looking after a family. 

Why are junior doctors going on strike? 

This is the first time in 40 years that junior doctors have staged a walkout. It’s a last resort – but we genuinely feel we have no choice. Junior doctors are angry at the way in which the Government is riding roughshod over the genuine concerns doctors are raising about patient safety and doctors’ wellbeing. We are fed up of hearing Government ministers undervalue our work and undermine patients’ trust in us. Many of us are already at breaking point, looking to work overseas or even leaving the medical profession altogether. Junior doctors believe that the Government’s plans will harm the next generation of doctors – and the future of the NHS itself. Nothing the Government has said has given us any hope that they are prepared to negotiate properly and listen to our concerns. 

What do junior doctors want? 

First and foremost, we want to negotiate a contract that is fair for doctors, safe for patients and provides a future for the NHS. However, to be able to get back round the table, we want the Government to remove the threat to impose a new, unnegotiated contract on us. 

We want a contract which: 
  • Pays us fairly for the hours we work. 
  • Ensures that the hours we work are safe.
  • Provides cover at weekends and at night, but also recognises our right to family life.
  • Doesn’t disadvantage those doctors who work less than full time or who take parental leave. 
In numbers: junior doctors and the NHS 
  • There are 53,000 junior doctors in England.
  • Junior doctors already work seven days a week.
  • Every week, the NHS treats over 4 million patients.
  • Junior doctors care for patients in hospitals 365 days a year.
The BMA is the independent trade union and professional association for all doctors working in the UK.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

News updates - from the web

MPs debate the equalisation of state pension on women - read it here.

Clinical trial looks at potential vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease - read it here.

Increase in older women at work will cause health problems - read it here.

Singing in choirs and helping children read helps maintain older people's mental wellbeing - read it here.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Official secrecy over pensions

Freelance financial journalist Paul Lewis states that the Department for Work and Pensions has pulled down the shutters on Freedom of Information requests about the new state pension and the letters written to women whose pension age was postponed twice.

Click here to see his report.

Free advice for older people from Independent Age

Independent Age is a national charity. We want to ensure that older people stay independent and live well with dignity, choice and control.

We offer free, confidential advice to older people, their families and carers on social care issues, benefits and local activities to combat isolation.

For personalised advice, please call us free on 0800 319 6789 or email advice@independentage.org

Our free Wise Guides, cover topics such as money matters, care and support at home, residential care and getting the most from the health service. Call the advice line to receive your free copies.

More information from Anna D’Agostino on 020 7605 4223 or
visit www.independentage.org

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A call from the BMA

A message from the British Medical Association to fellow trade unionists:

Junior Doctors across England will be commencing industrial action on Tuesday 12th January. We are opposing this government’s attempt to impose an unsafe new contract on the medical profession. It is our view that the proposed contract represents an existential danger to the NHS as an institution.

You may be aware that the BMA had initially suspended its planned industrial action at the start of December and returned to talks with the Department of Health. That decision was made in good faith. However, over the last few weeks, in the course of negotiations with Government we have encountered only intransigence. It is clear that the government perceives our contract issue as pivotal for its attempt to “reform” the NHS towards a neoliberal, commercialised system.

It is therefore evident to us that we have no choice but to transform our 98% ballot mandate into action.

The developments of the next few months will have consequences stretching far into the future. This government is wilfully putting at risk our patients' safety, the tolerability of our working lives as NHS workers and the very viability of the NHS as a publicly-funded, publicly-provided service.

Why we need YOU - click here.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Ad Hoc Meeting - 8 January

Notice of an hoc meeting to discuss ARMs Action Point list to be held in the NW Regional Office.
  • Date: Friday 8th January 
  • Time: 11.00 a.m.
  • Place: PCS NW Regional Centre, 3rd floor, Jack Jones House, Islington, Liverpool, L3 8EG. Tel: 0151 298 3900.
Click on 'comment' link below to see agenda.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Respect now!

This is taken from an Older People NPC briefing, December 2015:

"The opinions the public form and what administrators do is helped by informed and accurate reporting so, as with all members of society, the media should treat older people with fairness, dignity and respect." - NUJ code of conduct

What’s the problem?

There is A GOLDEN RULE for those reporting on older people and issues: Ask yourself whether words like old, elderly or aged are appropriate. If they are not necessary or relevant to the story, don't include them. In the past, older people were treated somewhat patronisingly, e.g. "reaching for their slippers", but generally in a kindly way in the media. Nowadays, the following comment is more typical:

"The young tax-paying population has to fund, to its detriment, an ageing society."

Newspaper comment

Some 11 million older people are central, some say critically so, to Britain's economic affairs and subject to close scrutiny as to its needs and responsibilities, and to the vagaries of government.

The NUJ Code of Conduct explains that; "Language can be a powerful tool in shaping views and reflecting public attitudes both of which can form barriers that prevent people of every age from integration and participation in society. Nor should journalists produce material that is likely to influence opinion adversely or to discrimination on the grounds a person's or peoples age."

The British Medical Journal pointed out that despite evidence (that over 65s are the safest drivers) many European governments have enacted restrictive legislation, and asks: "Might it be that a negative image of elderly drivers in the media could be an important part of shaping public and medical opinion?!

Stereotyping

People reaching retirement age do not automatically take on the characteristics of old age. So diverse a group is difficult to stereotype; the media though manages to do so. The NUJ says that: "The term old itself is loaded with assumptions of neediness and ineptness that terrify the young and undermine the 'old' robbing them of self respect, damaging their health and welfare. Terms such as Granny and Pensioner encourage negative stereotypes."

The use of 'old' is a trap to the unwary. Of the Oxford Dictionary's 500 words or phrases defining 'Old', about 10 are complimentary while the rest are derogatory - many as in 'old maid' doubly insulting. In contrast 'Young' takes up a quarter of the length of 'Old' the worst said of them saying 'immature or inexperienced.'
An example of stereotyping - 'OAP 70 in Court' ... local newspaper

Older people are not an amorphous mass, but millions of individuals with differences of background, wealth, health, and demeanour so that when one person, or a group of older people, are the subject of a news story or feature think. For example, pensioners receive pensions, veterans have grown old in a profession. Adding a person's age, e.g. Roy Jones aged 62 is factual and probably relevant, although frowned upon by some.

There is no accepted catch-all word for the 60+ age group but 'older people' has become the most used and covers well such a diverse grouping. Words like old, aged, a pensioner or 70 throw no light on the subject.

Who are the 'Old' and what do they do?

They encompass every part of life's rich pageant, men and women, rich and poor, dull and clever, fit and unfit, Tory and Labour and every other political hue, bankers, trades people, astronauts, middle, working and the ruling classes, public school educated and the uneducated.

But according to Nick Clegg on Radio 4 when he was deputy PM, they don't do a lot. He said that "the so-called 'Snoopers' Charter' will even cover (all) grandparents who do nothing more exciting than going to a garden centre."

But it is well-known that a third work in some capacity, millions volunteer, half pay income tax and all of them pay indirect taxation! All of them do some or all of the following; tend to their own families, care for young and old, contribute to their communities in all their facets: sport, leisure to culture, filling theatres and cinemas, read books and newspapers, listen to watch current affairs and news programmes and join phone-ins. They do all of these things and more - journalists would do well to take time to discover what and give the rounded picture of them they deserve.

Are they a burden or a valuable asset to society?

Politicians and the media claim daily that the country can't afford the older generation and further having escaped the austerity cuts endured by the rest should lose benefits such as free bus travel, winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions and TV licences.

"The young are paying for the old now and in the future" - The Guardian

However, in 2010 a survey by the Women's Royal Voluntary Service showed that every year, pensioners add £40 billion more to the economy than they receive in pensions, care and benefits. They do this by paying income tax and indirect taxes (such as VAT), as child carers, by looking after spouses and by doing voluntary work. 

The nation has the best of the bargain in maintaining older people to carry on being able to help in so many ways. Today, Britain's basic pension is worth 18 per cent of the average male earnings compared with 60 per cent of in many other European countries. Yet this is not usually the picture painted by the media: Old have "generous pensions" - ITV Reporter

This low basic state pension throughout time has failed to meet the basic needs of the pensioner leading to added 'benefits' for rent, council taxes, winter heating, free prescriptions and bus passes - which are now all under attack.

Conclusion

It’s time for older people in the UK to be given more respect by the various media reporting outlets and - importantly - by politicians. An adequate rate of pension will be a start, but attitudes have to change to reflect the very real contribution to society made by people of all ages.

Roy Jones
NUJ 60 Plus and NPC Member

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Pension changes in 2016

From April 2016, there will be only a single-tier pension. This will be a flat rate paid at £155.65 a week. This replaces the current, lower basic state pension of £115.95, but it also replaces secondary and additional pensions which would normally enable people to top up the basic rate.

An analysis by leading actuarial firm Hymans Robertson found that most people would lose out under the new regulations. Over 20 million workers are likely to be more than £1000 a year worse off under the new deal, and people who transferred some of their savings into private schemes for brief periods in the 1980s and 90s stand to lose as much as £20,000 in total. 

Though she criticised this assessment as "scaremongering", Ros Altmann, Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, admitted that even the government projected that 25% of people would be worse off under the new pension scheme.

Friday, 1 January 2016

2016 - time to fight back

Let’s make 2016 the year the fight back gains momentum:
  1. To work to force this government of the super-rich elected by just 24% of the electorate to retreat on its attack on the working class. A key factor will be building on Jeremy Corbyn’s magnificent anti-austerity victory.
  2. For Labour spokespeople to remember the Party was formed out of the struggle to defend the trade union movement from financial destruction by the capitalists.
  3. For the TUC to recognise that this government acts with impunity because they can. Cameron and Co know that, apart from some verbal opposition, active industrial opposition to their policies from the tops of the Labour Movement is none existent. The TUC should give decisive leadership to the six million affiliated workers and the wider working class in a programme of industrial action to force this illegitimate government to back down on its assault on all the working class have fought for over decades.
  4. To continue to hold up the PCS as an example to the trade union movement of how to fight back against a crazed, ultra reactionary cabal masquerading as the governance of this country.
  5. To demand that Labour councils accept their responsibilities which is to defend workers and not to attack them.
Tony Mulhearn