Last week, at Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked about 9,000 people over age 60 who died last year because their homes were too cold. I wanted a guarantee there would be fewer next year.
The gap between those who enjoy later life and those who struggle is increasing and needs addressing. Even before the pandemic, life expectancy was reducing.
More than two million aged 55 or over are living in a home with conditions that threaten their health. 4.3 million live in homes that don’t meet government standards because they’re cold and damp with hazards which put occupants at risk. In England one-in-five excess deaths are attributed to cold housing.
In less than 20 years, one-in-four of us will be over 65. Almost a million people between the ages of 50-64 are unemployed. They need work to pay bills, heat their homes and feed themselves. Unless there’s a plan to find work for them, things look bleak.
Many WASPI women, born in the 1950s, whose access to pensions were delayed without notice, know what a struggle life can be. It’s a disaster for those who fall into poverty before pension day and happening at a time of rising inflation when the value of state pensions is reducing because the government has broken the triple lock.
It used to be the case that to be old was to be poor. The last Labour government lifted millions of pensioners out of poverty but without urgent attention, we’re on course for those gains to be wiped out. Pensioners are once again having to choose between heating and eating.
How can a PM who talks about levelling up ignore what’s happening? The government could put an end to this. The PM could make sure no pensioner freezes to death. There could be an active jobs policy for over 55s and he could restore the pension triple lock.
The PM and his Chancellor are wealthy men who can look forward to a comfortable old age. What about everyone else?