5. A Thriving Third Age
Action 47 – Help Those Older People Who Want to Keep Working After They Have Reached State Pension Age
The Scottish Government has taken a number of steps to support older people in and into work. We published independent research from Edinburgh University in August 2017 to investigate the attitudes of older people towards extended employment and whether there were barriers they felt they had to overcome. This research aimed to improve our evidence base for taking action to encourage older people to work longer but to also help them achieve a good balance between their employment and other important aspects of their lives.
We will continue to make the case for devolution of employment law to the Scottish Parliament. Alongside this, we are taking action to help older people who want to keep working, including working with partners such as Age Scotland, Business in the Community and Edinburgh University to promote good practice in recruiting older workers and ensuring they are treated fairly in the workplace. We are also supporting businesses to address long standing barriers in accessing the labour market through the Workplace Equality Fund. Six projects who were successful in securing funding will be targeting support to older workers.
Individual Training Accounts provide people of all ages access of up to £200 per year for training and skills development; the aim of which is to enhance the employment prospects of those in low paid work or looking for work, and to equip people with the right skills to be successful within our labour market. We continue to promote the uptake of the Living Wage which will benefit older workers financially, and we are funding the Carer Positive Awards scheme to help workers with caring responsibilities to remain in employment, and Family Friendly Working Scotland to encourage flexible workplace practices.
Fair Start Scotland is a distinctly Scottish employment support service focusing on those further from the labour market for whom work is a realistic prospect. The service, which began in April 2018, will assist those who are disadvantaged in the labour market, providing person tailored support and a fair opportunity to secure employment.
Action 48 – Help Older People Claim the Financial Support They Are Entitled To
To help reduce poverty levels among older people, we undertook a pilot exercise to test the use of a Financial Health Check targeted at older people. The pilot followed directly after the "You've Earned It, Why Not Claim It?" social marketing campaign to encourage increased uptake of benefits, which Social Security colleagues ran in October 2017, aimed specifically at older people. Citizens Advice Scotland along with 14 Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABx) across Scotland undertook a range of activities to attract and then deliver the Financial Health Check over a four week period commencing 6 November 2017. The pilot revealed that CABx supported over 450 clients with over 750 issues; the project reached not only its target group, but also other disadvantaged groups (82% of clients were aged 60 or over, with 50% reporting disabilities, and 21% with caring responsibilities); and a total of at least £49,000 of direct client financial gain was secured over the period of the pilot.
The pilot exercise was the first element of a wider programme. Building on the findings, the Financial Health Check was launched on 2 November 2018 providing older people and low-income families with help to maximise their incomes by claiming the benefits and other support they are entitled to. The Financial Health Check will also help to reduce their outgoings where they are paying higher prices for essential goods and services like gas, electricity and banking.
Action 49 – Protect Older People on Lower Incomes With Council Tax Reforms
Our reform of council tax bands in April 2017 did not affect the threequarters of Scottish households that live in bands A to D, and our extension of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme will protect those on middle incomes (up to £25,000 a year) living in properties in bands E to H from the recent changes to council tax bands. This support will provide many pensioner households living in band E to H properties with additional support so that they do not pay more.
We will take further steps to promote awareness of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme that already helps around half a million low income households to meet their Council Tax liabilities, and encourage those who may be entitled to a reduction to apply.
Action 50 – Improve The Current System of Funeral Payments So It Helps More People, Is More Predictable and Provides Help More Quickly
We are making good progress to launch our new benefit, Funeral Expense Assistance, which will replace the current Funeral Payment in Scotland by summer 2019. We are working to ensure that we develop a system based on dignity, fairness and respect. In response to what we have heard from individuals and organisations about how the current payment could be improved, the Scottish Government has announced that we will:
- Process completed applications within 10 working days and make payment as soon as practicable thereafter,
- Introduce a new process to decide who is responsible for the funeral. This will help people understand if they are eligible, reduce intrusive questions, and assist in our work to increase take-up so that people receive the support they are entitled to.
- Uprate the flat rate part of the payment (currently set at £700) annually so that it does not lose value due to inflation.
These changes will significantly improve the experience of bereaved families across Scotland who are struggling with funeral costs. The changes will widen eligibility for support by 40% and are backed by around £2 million of Scottish Government funding annually in addition to the funding expected to transfer from the UK Government.
Our public consultation on draft Funeral Expense Assistance regulations closed on 23 August 2018. The Scottish Government has been considering responses to the consultation in order to take further decisions on how the benefit will operate before laying regulations early in 2019. Alongside this, we are continuing to work with individuals and organisations with experience of the current payment to develop an application process to deliver the benefit.
In addition, we are taking other actions to help tackle funeral poverty, as set out in our Funeral Costs Plan. This includes working with the funeral industry to develop guidance on funeral costs to improve the availability of information to help people understand and compare funeral options. We will also continue work to encourage people to talk about their funeral wishes and plan for their funeral.
Email: Daniel Paterson