Why we need a pensioner poverty strategy for Scotland

At Independent Age we believe no one should face poverty in later life.

But currently too many older people in Scotland face the daily reality of just that, with the number of pensioners living in poverty now 150,000 – up 25% since 2012. This statistic torpedoes the myth that all older people are living a life of comfort with large financial reserves.

Behind each statistic is a real person. Like the older people our team hear from everyday who are struggling to heat their homes, buy the food they need or afford to meet a friend for coffee.

The rising number of older people facing financial hardship in Scotland requires renewed focus, and critically a strategy from the Scottish Government.

Our report: “Not enough to live on” Pensioner Poverty in Scotland”

Today, we’re launching our new report Not enough to live onwhere the impact of pensioner poverty is shown through the stories of 38 older people in Scotland.

In the report, we set out what the Scottish Government can do to address financial hardship and improve the lives of older people living in poverty.

Eddie’s story

Any one of the stories in our report highlight why action is so desperately needed to reduce pensioner poverty.

Take Eddie, who is in his late 60s and lives with his wife in private rented accommodation. He lives with physical and mental health conditions and has been forced to use a food bank.

Struggling with the cost of rising heating prices Eddie said: “We never use the radiators. We just put on a small electric fire to heat the living room.”

The Doctor recommended healthier foods that would improve Eddie’s heart health but his income cannot stretch to the higher price of these foods - poverty restricts his choices and harms his health.

Talking about having to use a foodbank, Eddie said: “We don’t like going to the foodbank every week… You never think when you’re younger, that when you get older, things are going to change.”

No one should have to live in poverty - to find themselves in a position like Eddie’s - no matter their age. It doesn’t have to be this way.

What needs to change?

We want to see the Scottish Government renew their focus on pensioner poverty and commit to taking action to reduce it.

As the stories in our report demonstrate it’s essential that a long-term strategy to address pensioner poverty and stop the upward trend is implemented by the Scottish Government.

With an ageing population we also want to see the creation of an Older People’s Commissioner for Scotland. This independent role would champion the interests and amplify the voices of older people, advocating for their human rights.

Our polling revealed that of older people in households with incomes under £20,000, 74% are cutting back on food and 61% on heating.[1] As the cost of living continues to squeeze the budgets of older people on a low income it’s vital the Scottish Government consider how they can support pensioners living in poverty.

From ambition to action

The Scottish Government have said they want to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow old. It’s a welcome ambition. But one that requires action to reduce pensioner poverty if it is to be achieved.

The opportunity to improve the lives of 150,000 older people living in poverty in Scotland is in front of the Scottish Government: we urge them to seize it.

To find out more about Independent Age visit Independent Age and sign up to campaign with us. To hear more about Independent Age’s policy and public affairs work in Scotland contact Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Debbie Horne, at PublicAffairs@independentage.org

[1] Independent Age commissioned polling carried out by YouGov in November 2022 of 531 adults aged over 65 in Scotland.

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