More than one and a half million British pensioners are “floundering” on low incomes and consigned to poverty. That's the shocking conclusion of a report by elderly care charity Age UK.
The research, How We Can End Pensioner Poverty, published on Friday, reveals that poverty among pensioners is rife in Britain, with 1.6 million living below the poverty line and a disgusting 900,000 living in “severe poverty.”
Struggling pensioners have difficulty affording life’s most basic essentials, Age UK warns, with fresh produce, warm garments, and adequate heating in winter time unattainable to many.
Age UK argues many of these pensioners have “been walking a tightrope in recent years,” in the wake of increases in the cost of food and utility bills. One 88 year-old pensioner, Lilly, told the charity she “was going to bed at seven o’clock to keep warm” because she “couldn’t turn the heating on.”
Some 2.2 million pensioners are not claiming their Council Tax Benefit – a sum of £728 per year – while 390,000 older people are not claiming £48 of housing benefit per week, Age UK warns.
The charity’s research indicates many pensioners are unaware of their benefit entitlements, while others were simply to embarrassed or too proud to claim the money.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says the sheer volume of vulnerable older people living in poverty in Britain is “nothing short of a scandal.”
A large proportion of UK pensioners are “unable to afford decent food, heat their home or live an independent life – when billions of pounds in benefits are unclaimed,” she warns.
Among the charity’s key recommendations is a call for clear targets to reduce poverty with a view to abolishing it altogether. They also advocate a big campaign to increase pensioners’ awareness of their entitlements and ensure they have all the information they require, the report said.
News of widespread pensioner poverty and falling living standards comes as new revelations show financial inequality is rising in the UK.
Britain is the only G7 country where inequality has grown since the start of the 21st century, according to a report by Credit Suisse published on Tuesday. The research indicated the UK’s richest 10 percent have actually become wealthier since the financial crisis.
Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, said:
"The way our pensioners are forced to live brings shame on our Nation. That they are sometimes forced to choose between heating their homes and eating is a disgrace in a developed, wealthy country like ours. When you contrast it with the lifestyles of some in our country it is just sickening."