Time to tackle pensioner poverty in Wales, says Age Cymru

A 91-year-old South Wales woman was drying toilet paper on the radiator and eating just two boiled potatoes a day because she was so desperately short of money.
That’s one of the shocking examples highlighted by a new report by the older people’s charity Age Cymru about pensioner poverty in Wales.
‘Life on a low income’ has been launched at the National Assembly for Wales.
The report finds that:
· 84,000 older people in Wales live in poverty;
· Just under 50,000 older people in Wales live in severe poverty on £183.50 per week or less;
· 200,000 older people report cutting back on food, heating, and social activities for financial reasons;
· 42,000 of older people report getting into debt in recent years;
‘Life on a low income – the reality of poverty for older people in Wales’ is based on research by Age Cymru and real-life case studies of the hardships faced by some older people in Wales.
Report author Graeme Francis of Age Cymru says:
“All older people should have an adequate standard of living.
“No-one should be faced with a calamitous reduction in their standard of living when they retire or be resigned to a life where they are forced to choose between basic essentials in order to make ends meet.
“Yet unfortunately, many older people in Wales have to make these stark compromises and tough choices every day.
“This situation is preventable. In 2011/2012, Age Cymru and its network of local partners helped older people across Wales to claim £13 million in extra benefits.
“We did this through our income maximisation and information & advice services, but unfortunately as much as £168 million is estimated to be going unclaimed by older people entitled to Pension Credit alone. This is money which could make a significant difference to many older people and also to the Welsh economy.
“Age Cymru is calling for the Welsh Government and local authorities to use the Tackling Poverty Action Plan to strengthen support for these services to make sure that vital help is available to all older people across Wales.”
Jeff Cuthbert AM, the Welsh Government Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, is a guest speaker at the launch of the report.
He will be speaking about Welsh Government’s actions to support older people living in poverty and will tell the audience:
“Tackling Poverty remains a key priority for the Welsh Government and I am committed to taking forward a number of programmes that lift people out of poverty or stop the risk of them falling into it.
“Examples of our work include appointing an Older People’s Commissioner to champion older people’s rights, announcing further grant funding of £1million for front-line advice services and fully-funding our free local bus travel service for older or disabled people. There are 725,000 bus passes in circulation, demonstrating the success and popularity of the scheme.
“However, we recognise that it is important to identify new opportunities to reduce poverty and improve the lives of those living in the poorest parts of Wales.”
Eileen Powell, Executive Director of Age Cymru Gwent, will be giving a presentation at the launch about the practical support Age Cymru can give to older people on low incomes.
For information about your nearest Age Cymru charity partner and for free, confidential and expert advice on a range of issues for over 50s in Wales, ring Age Cymru’s advice line on 08000 223 444.

CASE STUDIES

Mrs Parry, Swansea
Mrs Parry is a 91 year old widow who lives in a small council flat. She has a number of health issues.
When she was visited by Age Cymru Swansea Bay she was desperately short of money and was drying toilet paper on the radiator so it could be re-used. Her friends would peel potatoes and put them in a saucepan. Each day she would take one or two and boil them for a meal.
The advisor carried out a full benefit check, which revealed that Mrs Parry was receiving the State Pension and a small occupational pension from her late husband. She was afraid that she would not be able to pay her rent and Council Tax and that she would be evicted.
Age Cymru Swansea Bay were able to advise her that she would be entitled to Pension Credit with immediate effect, which would entitle her to free Council Tax and rent and help with teeth and glasses. Mrs Parry was so overcome that she broke down crying.
As a result of the visit, Mrs Parry’s income weekly income increased from £141.64 to £328.51. She now also saves £78 per week on her rent and Council Tax.
Mrs Parry can now afford nourishing food daily as well as household goods, and she is being offered other support by Age Cymru Swansea Bay.

Mrs Matthews, Caernarfon
Mrs Matthews is 82 and lives alone. Her sight has deteriorated in recent years and she also suffers from arthritis, asthma, lung disease and incontinence. She depends on assistance and support from a neighbour.
Her neighbour contacted Age Cymru expressing concern that Mrs Matthews was receiving no physical or financial help. An Age Cymru Gwynedd a Môn benefit officer visited Mrs Matthews to carry out a benefit check and helped her to apply for Attendance Allowance. After an appeal she was found to be entitled to the Higher Rate of Attendance Allowance worth £81 per week.
This has made increased Mrs Matthews’ weekly income and also opened the door for eligibility to other benefits. Mrs Matthews said that she had been unaware that extra help was available to “people like her, unable to manage on their own.”
As her claim was backdated Mrs Matthews received a small lump sum, which she could use to buy a bigger television as she had been forced to stop watching a long time ago because of the deterioration in her sight.

Age Cymru:
· Age Cymru is the national charity for older people in Wales
· We are the force combining Age Concern Cymru and Help the Aged in Wales.
· Age affects us all in different ways. We cannot promise good health, but we should be able to ensure good care for all of us. When we find loneliness, we will reach out. When age becomes a burden, we will lighten the load.
· Age Cymru will campaign. We will fundraise. We will research. We will make the powers that be listen.
· Age Cymru is a registered charity 1128436.
· Company limited by guarantee and registered by in England and Wales 6837284.
· Registered office address: Tŷ John Pathy, 13/14 Neptune Court, Vanguard Way, Cardiff, CF24 5PJ.
Age Cymru works nationally and locally across Wales to improve life for all older people.

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