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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 35 Feb/March 2011

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What the New Health & Social Care Bill Means

The Government has presented its new Health Bill to Parliament (it only applies to England and partly to Wales although the part affecting arrangements between the NHS Commissioning Board will affect Scotland - UNISON opposes the Bill: see info here and UNISON's vision here), with the focus on improving patient treatment and experience, as well as increased emphasis on public health and prevention. But what exactly will it mean for us and what does Age UK think about the new proposals?

As the new Health Bill continues its passage through the House of Commons on Monday 31st January with its Second Reading, overall, Age UK thinks the ideas behind the changes could be good for people in later life.

We agree with the Government that a much clearer focus on what actually happens to patients while they are being treated, and how many people get better, is the right kind of vision for the NHS to be asked to live up to.

Better patient care needed

But, we think there are some problems with the way the Government wants to make these changes and that in some areas they might not mean better care for people. To be successful, the health reforms need to deliver better patient care for everyone, not just the illnesses where it might be possible to treat people and see results quickly.

People are living longer and living with more complicated health problems so it is important the NHS focuses care on people with more than one health problem or who might be more difficult to treat.

Services that keep people out of hospital such as falls prevention or foot care should also be widely available.

More cooperation required

We think that local authorities and GPs around the country should work together more closely to ensure that there aren't as many gaps between health and social care services. Also, people who design healthcare services should be open and transparent about the decisions they are taking - if the NHS is really going to get better, people who make the decisions need to hear the views of patients loud and clear.

Healthcare professional concerns

Many doctors, nurses and other health professionals are concerned about these changes. One of the most important things the Government should do is make sure that current services are maintained. People shouldn't have to suffer because the health service is being reformed - it's important that today's patients don't lose out while services are reorganised to provide better care tomorrow.

People in later life are the main users of NHS services. Poor communication, a lack of joined-up care, plus services that don't work well all have a high impact on those who are frequent service users. Everyone suffers when poor practice goes unchallenged, so getting healthcare right for people in later life is fundamentally about getting it right for everyone.

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How the New Pensions Bill Will Affect You

On 13 January 2011 the Government's new Pensions Bill received its first reading in Parliament. Here's a quick guide to what's been said, and what these changes could mean for you.

An increase in the State Pension Age

The first key reform in this Bill is the increase in the State Pension Age. The State Pension Age is different from, and not linked to the Default Retirement Age - it is the age at which eligible people begin to receive their state pensions.

How the changes will be brought through

Under the current rules, the State Pension Age for women is in the process of rising from 60 to 65 to equalise with men; and then state pension age for both men and women was due to increase from 65 to 66 between 2024 and 2026. The Pensions Bill is bringing forward the timing of equalisation and the rise in the State Pension Age from 65 to 66 for both men and women.

Under the new legislation, women's state pension age will reach 65 by November 2018.

The rise from 65 for both men and women will begin in December 2018 and reach 66 by April 2020.

Concern over those on lower incomes

Age UK is concerned that this change will hit the poorest hardest, as people on lower incomes are generally more reliant on their state pensions and have lower life expectancy.


Better news is the new provisions about auto-enrolment. For the first time, all workers will have the right to a pension contribution from their employer unless they decide to opt out of the scheme. The new Government reviewed these plans and the Pensions Bill introduces some changes.

Age UK is pleased that most of the provisions remain - for example, there will be no exemption for small firms, who will have to pay pension contributions for their employees. The Bill provides for an optional waiting period of up to three months before the employee is automatically enrolled.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK, commented: 'Auto-enrolment is a hugely important reform which means that for the first time, all workers will have the right to a pension contribution from their employer unless they decide to opt out of the scheme. While we have some concerns about the increase in the threshold and the introduction of a waiting period, we are pleased that there will be no exemption for small firms.'

What happens now

Age UK will be working to ensure that the Government invests in providing good-quality information and advice to help people understand the new pensions options available to them and make informed decisions about saving for retirement. We believe that January 13's announcement brings both good and bad news for people in later life: Phasing out the Default Retirement Age is good for those that want to continue working past 65, but plans to increase the State Pension Age more rapidly than previously planned is bad news for the millions of older people unable to work for longer'

For more information, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/fallscampaign'

For any advice on any issues which affect you please contact: Age UK Advice: 0800 169 6565

These excerpts were taken from Age UK. Apologies for any misquotes Mae Stewart

Useful Contact Numbers

Action on Elder Abuse: 0808 808 8141
A national, freephone helpline for anyone concerned in any way about the abuse of older people, whether in their own homes, sheltered housing, care homes and hospitals. Lines open: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Age UK Customer Services: 0800 169 8787 We are here to answer questions, concerns and complaints from our supporters and from members of the public about the Charity and our activities, including how you can get involved with Age UK. Lines open: Mon-Fri, 8.30am-5.30pm

Age UK Information & Advice: 0800 169 6565 if you need information or advice from anything from health to housing, please give us a call. We can also put you in touch with our local Age UK partners (who may still be called Age Concern). Lines open: 8am-7pm, 365 days a year.

BT faults: 0800 800 151 If you have a fault on your BT phone line, then you can report it free. Lines open: 24 hours a day. BT Nuisance/malicious calls helpline 0800 661441 A national, free number if you're getting persistent unwanted calls. Lines open: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone to ring.

Consumer Direct: 0845 404 0506 The government-funded service that offers clear and impartial information and advice on consumer issues, from overcharging to faulty goods or dodgy workmanship and from energy supply to postal problems. Lines open: 8am-6:30pm, Monday to Friday; 9am-1pm, Saturday

Cruse Bereavement Care helpline: 0844 477 9400 Cruse promotes the well-being of bereaved people and enables anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. Lines open: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Gas Emergency Contact Number: 0800 111 999 If you smell gas and are worried there may be a leak, then call this number free to report a potential gas emergency. Lines open: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Home Heat Helpline: 0800 33 66 99 If you're struggling to pay your fuel bill or worried how you're going to stay warm, the Home Heat Helpline will make it easier for you to find the answers. Lines open: Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm Saturday, 10am-2pm.

MIND: 0845 766 0163 The mental health charity provides information on a range of topics including types of mental distress, where to get help, drug and alternative treatments and advocacy. They are also able to provide details of help and support for people in their own area. Lines open: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

National Debtline: 0808 808 4000 A free, confidential helpline offering independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. Lines open: Monday-Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday, 9.30am-1pm

NHS Direct: 0845 4647 Whenever you have health worries, NHS Direct has the knowledge and experience to give you real help and reassurance. Lines open: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Pension Service: 0845 6060 265 A national helpline for anyone who has questions about their pension or is planning for retirement. Lines open: Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Samaritans: 0845 790 9090 Samaritans provides confidential non-judgmental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide. Lines open: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The above information was taken from Age UK.

My apologies for any misquote. Mae Stewart