December newsletter 2014

November 5th Hornsey Pensioners Action Group Lobby

Parliament LobbyAs Lynne Featherstone had just been promoted we were grateful that she kept her promise to see a delegation from HPAG at Portcullis House at 2.15pm for 15 minutes; in fact she allowed us somewhat longer.

We showed Lynne photographs of lobbies going back several years, but quickly addressed our concerns:

· To remind her that we had yet to receive a reply to our letter on GP funding. (Lynne has since sent a reply)

· To present a copy of the manifesto and ask her response. To this she referred us to the draft Liberal Democrat policy on the website.

· Lynne asked us for more information as to what was wrong with state pensions, and she has been sent a statement. This is given below.

· To hear our other concerns:

Barbara two issues. She handed Lynne a report from Haringey Healthwatch ‘GP Access in Tottenham Hale: Capacity Study’, dated September 2014. The report showed, in addition to the acute shortage of GPs in Tottenham Hale, inadequate provision in Noel Park that is part of her constituency.

Barbara also raised the unfair way beneficiaries of single parents were treated for Inheritance Tax, and has since received a reply.

Lauritz asked Lynne to consider the dangers posed by the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, that he considered reduced national democracy putting public services at risk.

Responses from three parties given at the National Pensioner Convention Rally that was held in Committee Room 14 are given below. Now we must approach local parliamentary candidates to get their responses to the NPC Pensioners’ Manifesto.

The November 5th Rally proved to be a successful event, with a good attendance and speakers from the three main political parties who stayed for over an hour to speak and answer questions, while some groups – like ours lobbied their own MPs over the manifesto.

· The main issues arising out of the contributions from the MPs were as follows:

Guto Bebb MP Conservative

– It was his expectation that the triple lock would continue (costly but worthwhile)

– Universal pensioner benefits would remain

– There should be a cap on care costs, but free personal care would be too expensive

– Health and Social care should be integrated

Lord Mike German Lib Dem

– The Lib Dem manifesto will include plans to enshrine the triple lock in legislation

– As a result of the triple lock, the new single-tier state pension will grow to £175 by the end of the next Parliament

– Concessionary bus travel should be available across the UK

– TV licences and the Winter Fuel Allowance should only be payable to those on basic rate tax or who pay no tax

– There should be a cap on care costs, but the current rate of £72,000 might be too high and needs to be lower

– Health and Social care should be integrated

Sheila Gilmore MP Labour

– Committed to keeping the triple lock

– A state pension of £175 is unaffordable

– The Labour party is willing to look at reintroducing link to RPI (depending on country’s finances)

– Committed to looking at the quality of care and what we pay carers (ie. Minimum wage and zero-hour contracts)

– Health and Social care should be integrated

[Note the triple lock is the indexing arrangement, whereby our pension is uprated each year by the most favourable of: inflation, average wages or 2.5%. Unfortunately NPC argues that Retail Price Index gives a higher measure of inflation that Cost Price Index, and CPI is used. Last year because of the recession 2.5% was used]

November 19th ‘Removing the barriers to disability equality’

The speakers were Pam Moffatt, Haringey Older People’s Forum and Councillor Kirsten Hearn, Labour Councillor for Stroud Green Ward.

The speakers already knew one another through the Greater London Association for Disabled People (GLAD); Pamela is wheelchair bound, with limited use of her hands, Kirsten is blind.

Pam Moffatt explained that her condition was genetic, not the result of a traumatic accident. She originally worked as a registered NHS Dietician, but retired early for health reasons. Her disability was progressive; this allowed her to adjust to each loss of function in stages. She remembers feeling devastated at not being to pour a cup of tea, having difficulty getting out of a chair or out of bed. Carers and the various aids were essential.

Her father was helpful, but it was her brother who taught her to drive an adapted car. A helpful organisation was found to solve problems. Not having strong arms and hands, wheelchairs needed to be adapted for self-propulsion. The major engineering firm Yamaha was responsible for an early design for the steering. The present design has power on both wheels, but the battery is at the back making it unstable. On one occasion she has tipped backwards while gathering blackberries with her carer on Shepherd’s Hill. Pam cannot engage the brake herself; this poses problems for bus travel. Although TfL caters for wheel-chair access on buses, there are problems, and where conflicts or difficulties arise it is the driver that has to intervene, even though they are not supposed to leave their cab.

Modern technology enables her to type and read emails and these skills were needed for her work as a volunteer. With Dragon adaptation to her Apple computer Pam dictates what she wants typed. The layout and size of print can be selected. Such technology helps with leisure, although practical problems arise with theatre visits; there are Fire Brigade regulations and lifts do not always work! Pam loves to read but cannot turn pages. A Kindle on her laptop, using a Westminster mouse enables her to read. Audi books were no good.

Pam has certainly not allowed her mobility and health problems get in the way of a career of volunteering and leadership.

Then it was Kirsten’s turn and she prepared herself to speak by adjusting her audio player – her note keeper. She explained that she was born partially sighted; lost her sight as a child and attended a special school. She came to view this as social isolation, not as drastic as the Nazi policy of exterminating less than perfect people, but nevertheless discrimination. Her isolation from the community was not her problem and the barriers to full participation had to be broken down. It was at Stoke Mandeville, that Kirsten joined a protest to claim her right to equality – and sat down in the road. Just as black South Africans should have full rights, she felt entitled to the facilities that enable her to have proper employment. Now a local government officer she has earned that right, plus other responsibilities – and of course is an elected councillor.

Getting about can also pose problems for a blind person. London has low floor buses at last and Kirsten travels by bus, dodging the tank-like buggies. She uses a fold-up white stick.

It is now assumed that blind people can take on the whole range of jobs provided they get the right equipment. Kirsten is computer literate; she uses Text to Speech to read email messages, and has a laptop with speech output that she usually carries about. She also uses a Kindle with supplementary software. AppleMac certainly markets products for accessibility.

Questions included how older people need gadgets to get on with normal tasks, but Pam said that people should not need to shop for such devices but have them provided. She referred us to the Haringey Cabinet member for the disabled, Cllr. Peter Morton.

Pam related a story of ludicrous bureaucracy; after treatment her hospital discharge was only possible with a wheel-chair, but the hospital chair could not be taken out of hospital, and the borough one could not be taken into hospital. Her brother in Scotland had to hire a Red Cross one to get her home.

The raffle and refreshments followed.

Bill Guy 1931 – 2014

Bill is on the left holding the NPC Banner at Blackpool 2011
William Randolf Guy died on 15th October 2014. He was suffering
from throat cancer.
Bill Guy was a world champion at 100m and 200m sprinting, he
became the fastest man in the world over the age 55 when he ran
100m in 11.89 seconds.
He was also a campaigner for racial equality and for pensioners – an
executive member of the London Region of the National Pensioners
Convention – a regular presence at all events and protests.
He came to Haringey in the 1950s and was active in the community.
In 2011, he sat on the police’s consultative executive; Haringey Police
Borough Commander Dr Victor Olisa hailed him as a “fantastic” and
“inspirational” man. He was a founder and trustee of Tottenham
Carnival, at which he was a marshall, and was Chair of the
Association of Reps in Haringey Council’s Elderly and Supported
Housing schemes.
Quoting David Lammy MP “He was always keen to remind everyone
of the contribution of the Afro-Caribbean community to the rich
fabric of Tottenham. “He claimed to be the ‘first black man in
Tottenham’, who would recall walking across the fields of Broadwater
Farm when it was a farm and not a housing estate.