Monday, 13 July 2009

Building a society for all ages: Choice for older people

The Government is today launching a strategy “Building A Society For All Ages”, to help Britain prepare for our ageing society.

Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society Angela Eagle said:

“The Government is already taking action so that we can all make the most of the opportunities that longer lives bring. We have fundamentally reformed our pension system, increasing the state pension age and making sure that much greater numbers of people are saving adequately for their retirement. We are outlawing age discrimination in goods, facilities and services and will shortly publish options for reforming care and support. We are now at a demographic tipping point and today’s strategy will build on foundations to equip the UK to meet the needs and aspirations of the future.”

With pensioners now outnumbering school children, the Government is acting to make sure we are all – as individuals and families, as communities and service providers – prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The strategy, the latest in the series of announcements to follow the publication of the Government's plan for 'Building Britain's Future', draws together action to help individuals, families, businesses, public services and communities respond to demographic change. It follows the Government’s major reforms to respond to demographic change including the Turner reforms to the Pension system, the measures to outlaw age discrimination in the new Equality Bill, and the new Care and Support Green Paper to be published this week.

As part of helping the economy respond to an ageing society, a review of the Default Retirement Age (DRA) will be brought forward to take place next year. Currently employers can require all staff to retire at 65 regardless of their circumstances. The majority of people retire before 65, however 1.3m people choose to work beyond state pension age, and many more say they would work past 65 if their employer permitted it. The Government had previously promised to review the DRA in 2011 to see if it was still needed, but Ministers have brought the review forward to respond to changing demographic and economic circumstances.

Speaking about the Default Retirement Age, Angela went on to say;
“It is time to look again at this. Some people prefer to take early retirement, others prefer to keep working. We want to give older people flexible retirement options. The Government is responding to the changed economic landscape. The different circumstances today - for businesses, and for individuals coming up to retirement - suggest that an earlier review is appropriate. As Britain's demographics change, it is sensible that we have the debate on what works for business and individuals. The retirement laws need to reflect modern social and economic circumstances.”

The Government also believes that more needs to be done to respond to changing families as a result of the ageing society – with grandparents playing a stronger role and more people caring for elderly relatives. Building on the National Insurance measures taken in the budget to help those caring for grandchildren, a summit will take place in the autumn to explore the changing role of grandparents more widely and what more we can do to support them in maintaining strong relationships with their grandchildren after parental separation and divorce.

The Government believes that public services need to make responding to older people part of the mainstream of services and we will also work with local authorities to increase participation in later life by using smartcard technology to provide all-in-one cards giving access to a range of local opportunities. Smart card technology is already used in bus passes; these have the potential to also be used in leisure centres, libraries, sports clubs and other services. We will work with local authorities to test an all in one smart card that provides both central and local government entitlements.

Mid life health checks will be available on the NHS for everyone over 40 to help people prepare for a healthier old age.

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