Help the Aged’s policy director has outlined how a scheme to tackle
poverty among older people could run along similar lines to the
Sure Start programme for young children.
Paul Cann put forward his suggestion for “health and wealth” checks
at a Help the Aged conference on pensioner poverty last week.
The idea would involve working with high-risk groups of people in
their 50s in deprived areas and would be linked to GP services and
local primary care trusts.
It would be similar to the government’s Sure Start scheme, which
works with disadvantaged parents and parents-to-be to eradicate
poverty, in that it would be an early form of intervention.
“It would be like a health and wealth check in both a physical and
a financial sense,” Cann said. “When you’re in your 50s there are
more opportunities to remain working and keep active as well as
more opportunities to take action in relation to health.
“The health check could be linked to their GP and also to some sort
of check on their benefits. It would need to be community-based and
include some sort of benefits clinic. It would pick up people who
are particularly at risk of poor health and poverty.
“This is just one idea but this is the time to be coming up with
imaginative new policies,” said Cann.
He also called for a multi-agency drive to close the £2bn gap
in benefits take-up and ending fuel poverty.
Martin Barnes, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said
poverty among older people needed to be given the same priority the
issue had received for children.
“Today’s poor child can easily become tomorrow’s poor pensioner.
There need not be a tension between the commitment to end child and
pensioner poverty. We should have a sense of moving forward
together in terms of tackling poverty across generations.”
Cann added: “Our concern is about the absence of targets,
milestones and a sense of direction.”
He also called for a national strategic partnership to deal with
the problem of pensioner poverty and social exclusion.