Jo led a debate in Parliament this week to call the Government to account for ignoring the concerns of pensioners in East Dunbartonshire.
In her speech, described as “eloquent” and “comprehensive”, Jo slammed the Government for failing to raise the level of the basic state pension to what its own Department of Work and Pensions considers an acceptable minimum level of income.
She lambasted the system of benefits for pensioners as “complex” and “demeaning”, saying they have failed to reach those that they are designed to help. It is estimated that up to 1,500 pensioners in East Dunbartonshire are not receiving the pension credit for which they are eligible, which means they are also missing out on Council Tax benefit, Housing benefit and Cold Weather Payments.
Many pensioners in East Dunbartonshire rely on interest from their savings to provide an income, but as interest rates have dropped this has become impossible. In her speech, Jo quoted one Milngavie resident who said:
“I have just retired and planned to use the interest from my savings to live on, however with the latest cut in the bank base rate, I will be struggling.”
One Bardowie resident was quoted as saying:
“Many pensioners rely on small amounts of interest on savings to make the difference between poverty and a reasonable existence… The Government seems to be helping those groups who have failed in business and many people who have made no effort to live a responsible life, and is ignoring those who have made every effort possible.”
Commenting after the debate, Jo said:
“I called for this debate because I have heard so many distressing stories from older people in East Dunbartonshire who are struggling to get by. Savers have seen their incomes drastically reduced as a result of plummeting interest rates. The basic state pension is far too low to live on and many women do not even receive this because they have taken time out of work to bring up children. It is scandalous that so many pensioners have had difficulty heating their homes during the worst winter for 30 years.
“Pensioners in East Dunbartonshire tell me they feel they have been abandoned by the Government, and I agree with them. The state pension should be raised to a level which allows a decent quality of life, so can we end our reliance on a benefits system which is failing to keep older people out of poverty. It is time the Government started treating pensioners with the respect they deserve.”