Call to stamp out pensioner poverty

Age Scotland is calling for more action to tackle pensioner poverty . Pic: John Devlin.
Age Scotland is calling for more action to tackle pensioner poverty . Pic: John Devlin.

More than 200,000 Scots aged over 65 – one in five – are finding life a struggle financially, according to a new research study.

The latest Scottish and UK Government figures show that at least 60,000 pensioners are living in ‘material deprivation’.

This means they cannot afford basic expenses, such as paying regular bills, replacing a cooker, or keeping their homes warm and damp-free.

Last year the number of pensioners living below the poverty line rose to 158,000, or 16 per cent, across Scotland.

In light of these figures, Age Scotland is calling for more action to tackle pensioner poverty and urging older people to contact the Age Scotland Helpline to check they are claiming benefits to which they are entitled.

Research by Age UK, Age Scotland’s sister charity, found that around a quarter of people aged over 65 were finding life a struggle financially.

Scottish older people were slightly less likely to say they were “just getting by” compared to UK-wide (20 per cent compared to 25 per cent).

Older pensioners and those in lower socioeconomic groups were more likely to be struggling. Twenty-seven per cent of respondents aged 75 and over said they were finding it difficult or just getting by.

Those who are single, widowed, divorced or separated are more likely to be struggling (30 per cent) compared to those who are married (21 per cent).

Despite these figures, more than £290 million pounds in Pension Credit and Housing Benefit goes unclaimed each year, with one-third of households which are entitled to Pension Credit not claiming it. Age Scotland helped older people to access hundreds of thousands of pounds of support last year, but clearly much more can be done.

The charity is urging older people who are worried about their finances to get in touch to find out if they are entitled to help.

Keith Robson, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s easy to get complacent and assume most older people are comfortably off, but this survey shows that this is far from the case. These figures make harrowing reading. It’s simply unacceptable that one in five Scottish pensioners is struggling to get by and spending their retirement worrying about how to make ends meet.

“Living within a fixed budget is challenging at any age, but it can be especially tough for older people. Around half of Scottish pensioners can’t afford to adequately heat their homes, while many would struggle to replace a broken television or washing machine. Many older people don’t like to admit they are worried about money and aren’t aware of the help that’s available.

“Yet despite so many pensioners struggling financially, around one in three people who are entitled to pension credit aren’t claiming it. This extra income could make a real difference to their peace of mind.” He added: “We’d urge any older person who is concerned about their finances to call our free helpline on 0800 12 44 222 for information and advice.”