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From The Socialist newspaper, 12 January 2010

The real cost this winter

THE BIG freeze has shown the dangers faced by many old people in this unequal society. Every year, official statistics show what they call 'excess' deaths between December and March, but this winter's extreme cold could make matters far worse.

Roger Shrives

Many old people have been isolated by icy conditions. Scarce salt and grit resources are used on major roads, so many residential streets become like skating rinks. Older people are often stranded at home because they fear falling - hip fractures can cut the life expectancy of over-75s to under a year. Sub-zero temperatures can also trigger heart attacks amongst frail old people.

But the profit-hungry privatised gas and electricity firms charge so much for heating that the winter fuel allowance and extra cold weather payments from the government may not help enough to pay old people's fuel bills.

2.7 million (one in every three) pensioner households in the UK live in fuel poverty, ie they pay more than a tenth of their income trying to keep warm. Higher cold weather payments could lessen the impact of high prices while improved home insulation could cut the cost of heating.

But the state pension is far too low (95.25 a week for a single person and 152.30 for a couple). The Treasury spends only 5.5% of Britain's gross domestic product on pensions - the European average is 10%. There should be an immediate 50% rise in the state pension as the first step to a decent living pension. Pensioners should also get free heating and free home insulation.

The big freeze has also shown the lack of resources for urgent welfare services. Services that can end old people's isolation are already being cut in many areas. District nurses, for example, who visit vulnerable old people are often left under-resourced with workers overstretched in what are seen as 'invisible' cuts in NHS budgets.

Despite their crocodile tears about the problems of the cold snap, politicians of all the capitalist parties want further cuts in public spending. Pensioners and workers will need to resist these cuts and fight for a socialist society where old people can live a life of dignity, good health and financial security.

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In The Socialist 12 January 2010:

Decent jobs - not slave labour

Protest against bankers' bonuses

Leeds City Council Future Jobs Fund is no solution


Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition

Launch of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition


Socialist Party news and analysis

Labour's leadership crisis - time for a new workers' party

Global warming chills the north

The real cost this winter

Iceland debt crisis: Make the 'dirt bags' pay!

No to County Council cuts in Warwickshire!

Fast news


Northern Ireland

Corruption scandal grips Northern Ireland


Socialist Party workplace news

Fujitsu workers say: "Enough is enough"

Signallers' strike spreads

Buses - privatisation means worse services

Teesside fight to save jobs

Twinings jobs meeting

Hospital workers battle on


Unison Witchhunt

Unison witch-hunt: Shock exposures at Employment Tribunal


Workplace Feature

Call centres: Union campaign makes important gains


Socialist Party international feature

Greece - on the edge of a volcano


International socialist news and analysis

Sri Lanka presidential elections: No to the two warmongers!

Israel: Instability, class polarisation and socialism

Chile - Freedom for Elena Varela


Comment

Hard chimes for Pompey


 

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