Thursday, 26 November 2009

Meeting the Seniors

This photo shows my fellow Stroud Green Green Party candidate Anna Bragga deep in conversation with an attendee of the drop-in centre at Abyssinia Court, Weston Park.

We went along today to meet both residents of the 'housing with care' accomodation and to those who attend the daily drop-in sessions. They provide a great community service in that local older people can meet regularly, have dinner and socialise in comfort.

I have to say that one of the groups of people I have most enjoyed meeting on my door-knocking excursions over the last year has been the older residents of the ward. This is partly because, as a history nerd, I love to hear about how the area has changed over the decades. Some people have told me their wartime memories of Stroud Green and beyond, which has fascinated me.

Today we also had the chance to discuss the issue of pensions. The current full state pension for a single pensioner is only £95.25 (figure from April 2009). There's been a massive decline since the link with earnings was broken by the Tory government in 1979. Many pensioners, especially women, don't even get a full state pension.

Private pensions are in crisis too, of course. Some occupational schemes have failed, leaving pensioners who've contributed all their lives with nothing.

The Green solution would be to introduce a Citizen's Pension which would pay single pensioners £165 per week - with no means testing, which is demeaning and requires pensioner to jump through hoops. Independent studies by the National Association of Pension Funds have shown that this could be afforded today within current net expenditure and state pensions. Furthermore, by abolishing the tax relief on private pension contributions, which mainly benefit the more wealthy, we would save money which would then be plowed in to providing a fair Citizen's Pension for all.

It was great meeting the people we met today - and they seemed to enjoy the chat, the cake (thank you, Dunn's the Baker!) and meeting my daughter Clementine, who helped one of the residents make Christmas cards.

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