Exploring Retirement


Welcome to the April 2014 edition of Exploring Retirement. Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature activities to explore.

This month we are looking at "Pensioners Rights." It is hard to imagine how anyone can be expected to enjoy a sense of well-being in retirement if they can't afford to stay warm and feed themselves properly. Sadly this is the case for many retired people. As always the focus of Exploring Retirement is on opportunities for active people in retirement, rather than taking sides in the political debate on the rights of pensioners. So this month we are examining ways to get involved and make your voice heard.

Our guest contributor this month is writing about Vikings! No it's not April Fool - Michael has been to visit the new block buster Viking Exhibition in the British Museum in London, and uses this as a cue to discuss their influence on our place names and surnames etc.

Feedback from readers is welcomed. We have a featured article this month on the Citizen's Advice Bureau, courtesy of an e-mail from Sheila Magee, a volunteer with CAB in Northern Ireland. Please let us know your thoughts on using your knowledge, skills and experience to make a difference. E-mail your comments to editor@exploringretirement.co.uk

Pensioners Rights

In the UK the campaign for the rights of older people really took off when Jack Jones retired as General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union in March 1978 and started a movement that led to the first National Pensioners Convention, a one day event bringing together the retired members sections of a number of trade unions and various charities representing the rights of retired people.

In April 1992, representatives of 357 organisations attended a two-day Congress in Birmingham. This marked both the start of the annual Pensioners' Parliament and the birth of the NPC as a national movement. The Convention now meets for three days each year, in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, to discuss issues of concern to pensioners.

The National Pensioner's Convention support a number of pensioner issues, namely -

To learn more about the National Pensioner's Convention, visit their website at http://npcuk.org/. If that stimulates your interest, you can sign up for a free monthly e-mail Bulletin or you can subscribe to their quarterly newspaper, the Message, which costs £5 per year. If you would like to become involved in the work of the NPC you can apply to join one of their regional groups, the addresses of which you will find on their website.

Pensioner's Parliament

One of the most important initiatives of the NPC is the annual Pensioners' Parliament. This is now a three day event where issues of concern for retired people can be aired under the headings of -

  • Education - enabling people to find out new information that they can then use in their campaigning
  • Networking - offering the chance to get together, share ideas and build friendships
  • Debate - providing a forum for people to discuss ideas and have their say
  • Rally - inspiring the movement to continue its united campaign on key issues

Scottish Pensioners Forum

In 1992 a similar body to the NPC was initiated in Scotland by the Scottish TUC to allow Scottish pensioners to speak on their own behalf about matters that concern them. To learn more about the Scottish Pensioners Forum, visit www.scottishpensioners.org.uk/

The Pensioner's Parliament in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament was launched in 2011 by the charity Age Sector Platform. The Parliament allows older people from across Northern Ireland to have their say on the issues that matter to them. To ensure a broad representation of opinion, local pensioner's parliaments are organised in every county across the Province as well as in Belfast. In 2013 around 450 older people attended one of these events. The Parliament also invites participation from policy experts, influential people and high level politicians. At each meeting three main topics were discussed -

  • Making Ends Meet - pensions, fuel prices and food prices.
  • Reforming Health and Social Care - these sessions explored how the current plans to reform the Health and Social Care system in Northern Ireland may impact on older people.
  • Fear of Crime - focused mainly on community safety issues. The Justice Minister, David Ford, MLA attended a session of the Parliament at which he announced a new initiative to tackle fear of crime among older people. The Minister invited Age Sector Platform to engage directly with older people to develop new ideas and solutions.

Here is a short video providing some background on the Northern Ireland Pensioner's Parliament and describing the issues that they are concerned with.

Citizen's Advice Bureau

I am grateful to Sheila Magee who got in touch recently to tell me something about the work of the Citizen's Advice Bureau. Sheila is a volunteer with CAB in Northern Ireland. Here is what she had to say -

CAB is an independent charity, staffed partly by paid staff and partly by volunteers of whom many are retired. There are many volunteering opportunities for retired people to choose from but one of the attractions of CAB work is that it is incredibly varied and is so rewarding when you see stress leaving clients' faces.

Volunteer advisers come from all backgrounds and do not need to have relevant experience. All you need is to be able to use a computer, respect confidentiality and be willing to commit to one day a week. The commitment is expected because you are initially given fully accredited training over a 3 month period, after which you gradually adapt to work in your local Bureau. At the end of the training you are not expected to know everything but are given enough knowledge so that you can find information either from the extensive CAB database or from elsewhere.

There is no such thing as a typical day for CAB staff. They deal with the type of problems which people deal with on a day to day basis - mainly benefits, employment, education, housing, debt, relationships or consumer issues. They cannot solve all or even most problems but they can give options for the client then to decide which best suits him or her. The interaction with clients can be face to face, over the phone or by email. Volunteers help people fill in the various tricky forms and for this generally an appointment is made but other issues can be addressed over the phone.

To learn more about the Citizen's Advice Bureau, visit their website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/