Category: HPAG in the Ham & High

We love the BBC but latest deal is flawed

Older people notice long term trends and they appreciate national treasures. The BBC is one.

Many live alone, some continuously glued to the radio that keeps them interested and alert. Television provides much needed company for those unable to get out; they look forward to their favourite programmes. These give pleasure and simulate social involvement. But will the quality and choice be maintained if BBC funding is squeezed?

Commercial sponsorship does not guarantee quality programmes. We need only look to the United States to anticipate what we would get without a well-funded independent broadcasting service. For instance, would we welcome frequent mini-adverts interrupting play during tennis matches?

It is not just older people who are concerned. Was the recent deal between Minsters and the BBC director general triggered by the ‘Save the BBC’ Facebook page and the on-line petition put out by 38 Degrees? 29,000 signed against cuts to BBC funding, and 10,000 signed that they stood up for a strong, vibrant, publicly funded BBC, that should not be undermined. Their three claims were to protect the BBC’s funding, to help the BBC develop by putting value for money and quality before commercial interests, and to ensure the BBC’s independence.

The deal, though inadequate, does includes permission to charge broadband users who watch and listen to BBC programmes. If it is practicable to make charges the BBC could recoup lost TV licence revenue. The Charter agreement may allow the licence fee to rise with inflation using the flawed Consumer Price Index (CPI) after 2016.

I would recommend that the licence fee, frozen in 2010 at £145.50, is raised immediately. When you consider that the fee represents less than 40p per day, much less than a newspaper, the freeze was unreasonable and has already led to cuts in BBC funding. A leading drama executive has walked away and 1,000 jobs are at risk.

Older people want the BBC to be better funded, but those over 75 are exempt from paying the fee. As part of the deal the BBC has agreed to bear the cost of this concession, equivalent to one fifth of its budget. We object to that! This concession should be funded through taxation, not at the expense of fellow viewers, further depleting BBC funds.

What is the use of a free TV licence when there is nothing worth hearing on radio or watching on TV? It is like giving rural pensioners a bus pass without providing a bus service!

The deal is flawed and cannot guarantee the maintenance of a good quality broadcasting service. We would argue that the service is public and should receive public support raised from taxation. Don’t let it wither away from lack of funds!

by Janet Shapiro



We like to stand on our own two feet

Older people like to stand on their own feet. They also like to get out and about and that means walking. Unfortunately they also have trouble caring for their feet. Hornsey Pensioners Action Group (www.hornseypensionersactiongroup.org.uk) has campaigned for over 8 years to highlight the importance of good foot care for older people. Way back in November 2007 half the members at the AGM of the Haringey Forum for Older People admitted that they had trouble cutting their toenails; NHS figures confirm that 63% of those over 65 have such trouble.

Considering the health benefits of foot care that promote mobility and prevent falls and foot infections that lead to costly hospital treatment, it would be economic to provide professional services, but on the contrary services in Haringey have deteriorated.

For instance The Willoughby Road and Woodside drop in centres used to supply free basic non-medical toe nail services. This was performed by the managers who had had a 4 day training course given by the local health authority at that time. The managers at other drop in centres were also trained and users had to buy their kits for around £6 to avoid cross infection. Now only one of the former managers performs this service, having to serve the whole borough. Appointments must be made (07773382408) and a doctor’s permission sought. Even the continuation of this very pared down vital service is now under threat from government cut backs to council funding. We are not sure what provision is being organised at individual GP practices.

Those suffering from diabetes are entitled to NHS provided toenail cutting. One of our members, diagnosed 10 years ago with diabetes, was accustomed to have her toe nails trimmed every 6 weeks, later every 8 weeks and then every 3 months. At that stage her feet began to suffer. She found that appointments were now notified by post and difficult to reschedule, possibly due to cuts in administration. This lady was forced to go private.

Doctors can refer patients to the Podiatry service for general problems for their feet that reduce mobility – such as plantar fasciitis. The therapists give excellent treatment, but waiting times to see them are very long indicating that there are not enough professionals employed. How many people resort to paying for advice and how many without the spare cash remain in pain while waiting?

We hear about ‘integrated care’, but neither healthcare commissioners nor social services appear to acknowledge responsibility; we suspect that the issue is not being taken seriously. With severe cuts to local day centres in Haringey who will now help those needing foot care? Surely we should keep older people walking comfortably?

by Lauritz Hansen-Bay



City Hall can help us to enjoy life despite its various obstacles

The increasingly cracked, uneven pavements and kerbs in our streets are especially hazardous for the elderly whose spatial ability maybe diminishing. An injury came when feeling well I strode off forgetting to examine the pavement especially important after dark when shadows abound in the dimmed street lights. On the other hand there is a need to look up for low branches, scaffolding poles, cycle stands, refuse bins etc.

Our streets are interesting holding a variety of colours, shapes, sounds, materials and people so important to entice elderly people out of their homes. In Hornsey and Muswell Hill, there is a grace and mellowness in the colour of old bricks and lines and curves of the buildings that contribute subtly to feelings of well being. Sadly Planning decided to change this when replacing the slip road, original brick flower beds and old paving stones outside Planet Organic and the Odeon with nondescript greyness, concrete ringed thin trees bases covered by small grey stones that leak onto the pavement to accost the unwary and dim the soul.

A constantly changing self and a changing environment ask for concentration and care. One’s balance may vary, the roots of our lovely trees silently push up and the ground can develop an unnoticed sharp slope. Diminishing sight adds to the hazards. The pedestrian lights across Muswell Hill Broadway are very good as they change frequently but bad as they have no seconds counter to let you know if you have time to cross. The lights at the bottom of the hill are complicated and slow, tempting people to take a chance despite sight lines blocked by bushes.

Street furniture adds what seems to be an unnecessary hazard. Shops put out heavy advertising boards often preventing window gazing. What are they for? They narrow the pavement forcing families, uncontrolled scooter riders and dogs dangerously nearer the kerb; wheel chair users may have to change direction of travel and risk entanglement with buggies.

There are recycling difficulties for people who live in flats. Scary slippery surfaces when wet such as at Finsbury Park tube. In winter this could become black ice and presents the risk of a broken hip. Even shops with heavy doors means waiting for someone to enter so I can slip out.

Buses can drive off fast before elderly are seated, may suddenly brake and often stop too far from the kerb. Off the buses there are not enough benches for resting and talking, or any public toilets. Such amenities would make street life more enjoyable and safer for everyone. We await, impatiently but hopefully, for the GLA to agree the recommendations in ‘An Age Friendly City’- how far has London come? Report for the GLA by Kings College London. To read for yourself, see bit.ly/KCLStudy

by Sylvia Roberts



Pensioners’ Manifesto for 2015  Election

In recent weeks we have seen the main political parties make desperate, last minute attempts to woo the pensioners’ vote before May 7. But all their promises do little to promote the welfare and interest of pensioners’ as a way of securing dignity, respect and financial security in retirement.

Coalition policies have resulted in 680,000 people a year, most of them elderly, experiencing delayed discharge from hospital. Austerity has affected older people through cuts to local government. The number of older people receiving home care has fallen by one third since 2010 while places in day care centres have declined by two thirds. Just under 9% of the over 65’s – 850, 00 – now receive any kind of support from their council – down from over a 1 million 5 years ago.

A new system to cap the cost of residential care from 1st April is complex and unlikely to benefit many. As access to services is rationed to those in highest needs around 1.5million older people won’t be in the system. Also the quality of care for older people has been significantly affected by the low wages of care workers and the high cost of living and travel in areas like London.

1 in 6 pensioners (1.8 million or 16% of pensioners in the UK) live in poverty. Women aged 80 – 84 are amongst those at greatest risk of pensioner poverty.

Winter deaths over 2014 / 2015, affecting mainly older people, are expected to be 23% higher than the last five years, approaching 40,000. A major contributing factor will be fuel poverty amongst pensioners.

1 in 3 people who are entitled to Pension Credit don’t receive it, partly because they are not aware of it and partly because of the complexity of claiming.

The 11 million people over the age of 65 in the UK regard the Pensioners’ Manifesto 2015 to be most important for them, as published by the National Pensioners Convention:

• A basic state pension for all set above the poverty level of £175 a week

• Increases in pensions to be linked to the best of Retail Price Index,Consumer Price Index, earnings or 2.5%

• Universal pensioner benefits to be maintained without means testing

• A National Health and Social care Service which is free at the point of use and funded through taxation

• A legally binding Dignity Code to improve the quality and standards of care for older people.

Hornsey Pensioners Action Group is holding a public Hustings on Wednesday 8th April 2.00pm at Hornsey Parish Church Hall, Cranley Gardens N10 3AH at which all local General Election candidates have been invited. Please join us and have your say.

by Clive Evers



The trials and tribulations of today’s parcel redelivery hell

This is a story of 4 parcel re-deliveries which reflects the contempt that privatised companies have for pensioners without a car or unable or unwilling to use the internet.

Hornsey Parcel Depot has shut. I understand this was part of efficiency savings, but not for the customer. When I wrote to the Royal Mail customer services they were very clear that I could not use the Wood Green depot (at a pleasant 15min walk through the Alexandra Park). An assistant there did explain that they did not have enough storage space for the Hornsey catchment area. Until recently parcels had become 50% of Royal Mail’s deliveries.

Hornsey’s redelivered parcels are now to be collected from a depot in Tufnell Park.

Parcel 1 contained my regular order made by telephone, as many older people are not too confident about the safety of using a debit card on line. I then set off on a trip which would have been a 20 min walk to Hornsey Depot. As I do not drive a walk to the new depot would have probably taken me 1hour 30 min. Fortunately I have a Freedom Pass (Yes I am lucky, but this does help to support £40bn net pensioner contribution to the economy) The journey took me an hour with 3 bus journeys with not much waiting time and a 10min walk down an isolated road but it was free at collection.

Parcel 2 arrived too near to the busy Christmas period for me to repeat such a journey so I looked at alternate redelivery methods. Alas to have it redelivered to my home address I could choose the day by automated telephone message or on line but there was no time slot offered, not even morning or afternoon.. The alternative was to pay 75p as part of the efficiency costs of the Hornsey Post Office being separated from Royal Mail but at least it was only a 10min walk.

Parcel 3 was different as it had been ordered on line by a relative with the Hornsey Post office address as 1st delivery and therefore this one was free.

Parcel 4 was delivered through a competitor company. This was again a redelivery but very accessible, the pick up point being at a dry cleaners in Crouch End (15min walk). and,unlike the Royal Mail, free on collection.

In 2013 Royal Mail was sold off at an estimated £2.2bn loss. We older taxpayers paid over 50 years for its public service. It seems in parcel redelivery we have also lost the guaranteed universal service (Postal Services Act 2011) unless you are a driver, an internet user, or housebound with carers to open the door.

by Ann Anderson