We recently launched with Positive Ageing in London some research on “Welfare Reform: Older Londoners’ Perspectives” based on case studies of how older people have been affected by changes to employment support and housing benefit, both part of the current government’s “welfare benefits reform” agenda. You can see the report here.
Short summaries of the case studies:
An unemployed woman (aged 58) was being put under increased pressure to find a job and was making many applications and getting some interviews. However she had not been successful and felt that her age counted against her and her chances were decreasing. She felt that her long experience is of no interest to employers. She had been sent on “useless” courses theoretically to help her find work and felt that the job centre were looking for excuses to cut her Jobseeker’s Allowance rather than really trying to help her.
One disabled older person (aged 69) was affected because her son and his family, who lived in another part of the country, had to downsize because of the “under-occupancy charge” also called the “bedroom tax”. As a result it is more difficult for her to visit her family, increasing her isolation.
Another pensioner had her Housing Benefit wrongly cut because of the “under-occupancy charge” (she should have been exempt because of her age). Partly because English was not her first language and she was not computer literate, there were difficulties and delays in sorting out the mistake, leading to rent arrears. She was in the end helped by a local advice service but was in distress and financial difficulty for almost three months.
A man in his 50s who has a learning disability and cannot read, felt distressed by pressure to downsize to a one-bedroom flat. None were available in his area and he did not want to relocate to a different area altogether, having taken some time to settle into that area with his learning disability. He felt pressured and distressed by continually receiving letters about these issues, which he could not read.
We did not set out to discuss in our research whether or not the changes being made were justified in principle, but to show some of the emerging impact on older people.
What do you think?