September 2019: News from your local MP
Respecting our senior citizens
As a Conservative MP, I am a great supporter of tradition. For me, tradition is accepting that the society we are all privileged to live in did not just spring out of the ground, fully formed. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we have them to thank for bequeathing us the functioning democracy and economy that we enjoy today. The way we treat our elder generation is a clear signal of how grateful we are for our social inheritances and whilst life expectancy is happily around 81 years on average in the UK, our senior citizens are faced with a number of issues that we should all be mindful of.
According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in the UK live alone, and of those more than a million say that they go for longer than a month at a time without speaking to a friend, neighbour, or family member. This is a quiet emergency and it is unfolding in living rooms right here in our own communities. The medical impact of loneliness is devastating, both physically and mentally, and can be the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In October the Government published its first ever strategy for tackling loneliness. This builds on the work of numerous organisations and individuals over the years, as well as the £20 million of funding announced by the Prime Minister in June to support voluntary, community and charitable organisations to tackle loneliness.
In the strategy, the Government committed to work with businesses, employers, local authorities, health and the voluntary sector. The strategy includes supporting all local health and care systems to implement social prescribing connector schemes across the country by 2023, building a network of employers to take action on loneliness, increasing the number of spaces for community use, and an additional £1.8m of funding to test how community spaces can support social connections
As we age, many people find themselves increasingly reliant on public transport to shop, go to medical appointments, and see family. In our local area the MetroBus and the immensely popular T1 service have greatly improved connectivity in our area and when the MetroBus extension is completed, bringing the Mall at Cribbs Causeway and Bristol Parkway into the system this will improve still further. However, there is still more to do and in particular I am concerned that public transport links to GP’s surgeries and to Southmead hospital are maintained and, where possible, enhanced.
I am profoundly disappointed at the BBC’s decision to restrict free over-75s TV licences to only those on Pension Credit. I know that for many senior citizens television helps to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness and that there is a sizeable group of pensioners not quite eligible for Pension Credit for whom the decision to remove their free TV licence imposes an unexpected financial burden that they may find difficult to meet. I believe there is a compromise to be made here and have written to the newly appointed Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan to express my concerns and call for action.
I am wanting to connect with our older residents to help understand their concerns and also to put them in touch with a range of groups and services to help offer support and good company. To do this I have organised another Senior Citizens’ Fair after the success of last year. This will be taking place on Friday 13th September at Lincombe Barn, Downend 1.30pm – 4pm. Do please come along and recommend it to friends and loved ones, as it is expected to be a fantastic event.