1. Personal Finance
Several papers picked up Aviva’s quarterly Real Retirement Report which noted that the Over-55s increasingly concerned about the rising cost of living.
The Daily Telegraph reported “Pensioners are being forced to turn their hobbies into jobs as they prepare to work until they drop” whilst the Guardian focused on “Pensioners slashing spending on food in order to meet rising household bills”.
“Unlike their parents, the current generation of over 55s are facing the prospect of paying off a significant amount of mortgage debt as they move into retirement. Indeed, the practice of buying houses later in life and releasing the capital to pay for items such as cars, holidays, children’s university costs, etc, has taken its toll,” said Clive Bolton, of Aviva.
One-fifth of the over 55s still have substantial mortgages, unlike earlier generations, which tended to pay off their home loans by that age, the report found. The figures again underlined how the average 55-64 year old is worse off than the average 65-74 year old. Aviva found that pre-retirees’ mean monthly income is £1,313, compared to £1,374 among those who have taken retirement.
BT has launched a new booklet aimed at giving consumers practical advice on getting the best telephony package to suit individual budgets.
The latest in its series of Communications Choices booklets has been developed to help people manage their household communications budget and provides advice on what to do if they struggle to pay their bills. The 20-page booklet, produced with support from the free-to-client money advice community, is available in printed format and as a download on www.bt.com/includingyou
Commenting on the Consumer Experience the Telegraph noted that: “A generation of ‘silver surfers’ is driving a rise in broadband take-up”. The report stated that “Nearly half of the over-75s, however, reported difficulties in using computers and mobile phones, while a third of 65-74-year-olds said they too struggled with mobile technology.
The number of broadband connections in Britain grew by three per cent in the last year, but by nine per cent among 65-74-year-olds and eight per cent for over-75s. Nearly one in six, however, still say they do not intend to get web access in the next year. A fifth said the same in 2009.”
David Sinclair, Head of Policy and Research at the ILC-UK, has written a report on the potential financial reward of engaging with the older consumer. “The Golden Economy: The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society” is available at: http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/record.jsp?type=publication&ID=80.
The report notes that older consumer market is expected to grow by 81 per cent from 2005 to 2030 while the 18-59 year old market will only increase 7 per cent. It goes on to profile older consumers, talk about their consumer experience (covering issues such as design, jargon, mis-selling and upper age limits on products and services which may mean that these are inaccessible to older consumers).
3. Digital Participation
BT has relaunched its free broadband Community Connections award scheme, www.btcommunityconnections.com to help get communities online. Community groups in the UK can apply to get online free for 12 months if they can demonstrate how they will help people discover the wonders of the internet for the first time. There are around nine million people in the UK who have never used the internet. The closing date for applications is 13th January and winners will be announced by the end of February.
The Telegraph reported on Martha Lane Fox’s “Go On, Give Someone Their First Time Online” campaign for web-savvy introduce friends and relatives to the internet for the first time. The initiative also encourages the recycling and refurbishing of old computers.
A campaign allowing people with disabilities a quick, simple way of reporting inaccessible websites, including by email or Twitter, was launched last month. Complaints filed using ‘Fix the Web’ are taken forward by volunteers, who contact the website owners and ask them to fix the problem. The service was developed by the charity Citizens Online: http://www.fixtheweb.net/
Public services should be delivered online or by other digital means, the Government announced in November: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101122-defaultdigital.aspx
In a report to the Cabinet Office, Martha Lane Fox argued that “shifting 30% of government service delivery contracts to digital channels has the potential to deliver gross annual savings of more than £1.3 billion, rising to £2.2 billion if 50% of contacts shifted to digital.”
Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, responded to the report by saying:“This does not mean we will abandon groups that are less likely to access the internet: we recognise that we cannot leave anyone behind. Every single Government service must be available to everyone – no matter if they are online or not.”
However Age UK in an article entitled “Millions of elderly people could lose out on important health and education benefits as the Government plans to put major Post Office services online” claimed “that six million people over the age of 65 have no access to the internet, many of whom are already isolated and need public services to survive.”
We work with a lot of older people to get them on online,” a spokesman said. “But we have to accept that there are a lot of people out there who do not use the internet and we need to make sure that we do not further isolate them in any way.”
The first services to go online will be student loans followed by applications to schools, such as school meals; personal applications like driving licences; and benefits such as job seekers’ allowance. Eventually other services will be rolled out like child benefit.
Part of solution, according to an article in the Guardian, could be for customers to access the web in places such as Post Offices.
However, “George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said he was glad the government wanted post offices to be the place that people without internet connections would go to access government services. But he added it could also be a threat to Britain’s 12,000 post offices.
“I do have a problem with everything going online,” said Thomson. He argued that a lot much of the work of post offices was dealing face to face with people about their Post Office card accounts, green giros and taxing their cars, for example. “Those are important transactions, and the philosophy of everything going online means that despite the new products there could be a lower volume of work overall.
“Most post offices are also shops and they depend on the footfall that comes in. If 3,000 people come in during a week, they also buy their newspapers, bread and milk there. My fear is that, if you lose the volume, then the business model that sustains that disappears.” “
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has launched the government’s vision for adult social care, ‘Capable Communities and Active Citizens’. Telecare, re-ablement and ‘home improvements and adaptations’ are highlighted as preventative services with the potential to save resources as well as promote independence.
The Government’s aim is to shift power from the state to the citizen through:
- increasing the uptake of personal budgets (30 per cent of eligible users by April 2011 and everyone eligible by 2013)
- information and advice as a universal service
- £400 million for carers’ breaks
- preventative action in local communities to keep people independent
- breaking down barriers between health and social care funding
- care and support to be delivered through a ‘plural market’ in partnership between individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, the NHS and council services
Age UK provides easy-to-read information on equipment and adaptations in the home, available via this link.
‘Invest-to-save’ funding by the Welsh Assembly Government includes support for telecare and a single public sector broadband network. The £7.3 million investment is expected to save the public sector £14 million a year and some £64 million over the longer term. Details via this link.
A video demonstrating how to use the Refreshabraille 18, a Braille display and keyboard, built by the non-profit American Printing House for the Blind, with an Apple iPhone or iPod, has been posted on YouTube. A link to the video and a transcription can be found on the ‘StoneKnight’ blog run by transcription specialist Mirabai Knight: http://bit.ly/dIU26U
The UK’s first ever Disability History Month (UKDHM) runs from 22nd November to 22nd December. More information here.
The East Anglian Daily Times reports on a rise in hate crimes committed against the disabled – using figures obtained under FOI. In Suffolk over a 12 month period, these crimes were up 60%. See: http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk_hate_crimes_against_the_disabled_up_60_1_718573
The Department for Work and Pensions has published the latest statistics on the Access to Work programme, see here. Delivered by Jobcentre Plus, this provides practical advice and support, including equipment and adaptations, to disabled people and their employers to help them overcome work-related obstacles.
24,340 individuals were helped in the period April 2010 – June 2010. However, Access to Work has cut the range of products it will fund. Desktop computers, voice activation software and ergonomic chairs and desks are among equipment that will no longer be paid for by the government, but will become the responsibility of employers to provide. A report in Ability magazine is here.
Perhaps the biggest story in this community over the past month derived from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s launch of a white paper setting out radical plans for welfare reform. A new universal credit will be introduced to simplify the benefits system, reduce welfare dependency, and make work pay. The new credit will provide a basic amount, with additions for those with children and other caring responsibilities, people with disabilities and those with housing needs. It will be available for working-age people both in and out of work and will replace many existing benefits.
Disability living allowance will continue, but will be reformed so that support is targeted on people who face significant barriers to participating in society, based on a new assessment. The government is considering whether changes to carer’s allowance will be necessary. The new universal credit will ensure that benefits are withdrawn ‘slowly and rationally’ as people return to work and increase their working hours. Under a new system of conditionality backed by tougher sanctions, claimants will be split into four groups depending on how close they are to getting back to work and support will be tailored accordingly:
- No conditionality – disabled people or those with a health condition that prevents them from working, lone parents or lead carer with a child under age one;
- Keeping in touch with the labour market – lone parent or lead carer with a young child aged over one but under five;
- Work preparation – disabled people or those with a health condition which prevents them from working at the current time;
- Full conditionality – jobseekers (there will be mandatory work activity for some jobseekers).
The Department for Work and Pensions has put together a summary of how disabled people may be affected by current changes which is available via this link.
According to official statistics, three-quarters of people applying for the new employment and support allowance (ESA) which replaces incapacity benefit (IB) are being found fit for work after undergoing the controversial new work capability assessment (WCA), or they withdraw their claim before they complete the assessment. More information here.
6. Employment and Portrayal
In November The Times reported that “A former BBC journalist will become today the first presenter to take the corporation to an employment tribunal for age and sex discrimination. Miriam O’Reilly, 53, who was dropped from Countryfile, the BBC One programme in 2008, will bring her claim before a London Central employment tribunal.
Ms O’Reilly was told in November 2008 that she was to lose her post on Countryfile as part of a revamp of the BBC One show. Ms O’Reilly, an award-winning journalist who spent 25 years at the BBC, was removed alongside Juliet Morris, Charlotte Smith and Michaela Strachan, reporters in their forties and fifties. They were replaced by the former host of Watchdog, Julia Bradbury, then 36, and Matt Baker, then 30, as the show moved into a prized early evening slot.
Ms O’Reilly is claiming for sex discrimination, age discrimination, and victimisation, as she says she has not been given further work by the BBC after claims that she leaked stories about internal discontent over the removal of the women.
The BBC has been forced to address accusations of ageism, after the exit of older women such as Moira Stuart, 61, and Anna Ford, 67. Stuart has recently returned as the newsreader on Chris Evans’s Radio 2 breakfast show.
Miriam O’Reilly was dropped by the BBC One show Countryfile in 2008 .”