Challenge Poverty Week, running this year from 2nd to 8th October, sees organisations and groups from across Scotland come together to highlight that poverty is a problem we can solve, and to showcase solutions we can all get behind.
This year, Age Scotland was pleased to be involved in the short life working group forming the policy asks for the week. We are marking the week by shedding light on the scale and impact of poverty on older Scots, calling for more action to tackle this, and highlighting how our services can help older people find out if they are entitled to social security.
An increasing number of pensioners in Scotland, 150,000 or 1 in 7, live in relative poverty after housing costs. In addition to this, over 1 in 5 people aged between 55 and 64 are in relative poverty after housing costs (168,000 people).
The cost of living crisis is also having a huge impact on older people. In our newly published Big Survey 2023, which surveyed over 4,000 over 50s, 41% of all respondents reported feeling financially squeezed rising to 68% for those with an annual household income of less than £10,000. 70% of all respondents were cutting back on their energy and heating use and 38% were socialising less due to financial pressures. 9% of respondents reported skipping meals – rising to 12% of those aged 60-64 and 65-69 respectively. 50% of respondents told us their standard of living had dropped due to rising household costs over the past year. 10% of respondents were using credit or taking on debt to cope financially.
In addition to this, our recent National Housing Survey 2023 found that 43% of over 50s say they are living in fuel poverty and that pensioner fuel poverty rates have doubled since 2021 to 39% from 19%.
Calls for action
There must be more focus on what can be done in Scotland by Government, local authorities, and public services to end pensioner poverty. We have long been calling for the Scottish Government to develop a Pensioner Poverty Strategy which would provide targets, tangible actions, and milestones for progress, similar to the role the Child Poverty Strategy plays.
Every year, hundreds of millions of pounds in vital social security goes unclaimed by older people in Scotland. To change this, we want to see a nationwide benefits uptake campaign focusing on older people which boosts awareness of what is available and who can help, tackles stigma and breaks down barriers to claiming support.
More must also be done to highlight energy efficiency programmes such as Home Energy Scotland and Warmer Homes Scotland to older households as our research highlights they are typically less aware of these schemes – despite being the demographic most impacted by fuel poverty and poor energy efficiency at home.
Support from Age Scotland
Our free 0800 12 44 222 helpline provides information and advice to over 50s, their families and carers. Our helpline advisers can perform a benefits entitlement check and advise people on how to claim if they are missing out. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Our free guides provide information and advice on relevant benefits for older people – they can be accessed online and we can send out free paper copies
Our free workshop on benefits for people over State Pension age aims to raise awareness of the common benefits that support older people, including Pension Credit, Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. It covers the main rules, how to make a claim and what to do if something goes wrong. Book your place on a session here.