Help the aged

PUBLISHED: 12:03 15 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

SIR – Those people 75 years old and over will no longer be entitled to £60-worth of taxi vouchers from April next year unless they are also officially disabled or receiving Attendance Allowance as I understand it from a recent report in your paper. Counci

SIR - Those people 75 years old and over will no longer be entitled to £60-worth of taxi vouchers from April next year unless they are also officially disabled or receiving Attendance Allowance as I understand it from a recent report in your paper.

Councillors are often faced with difficult decisions; they get few thanks and plenty of flak. But I hope they reconsider this one as it badly affects the most vulnerable members of our community. I'm sure that councillors are not callous or uncaring but I wonder how many of them are over 75 years old and therefore have the experience of being really old.

My wife and I are fortunate that we do not need taxi vouchers but we are 86 and 87 years old and know that old age is an inescapable disability in itself. That's life.

When you're old, muscles get weaker, joints creak, balance suffers so it's easy to fall and bones get brittle: faculties generally get poorer. And on top of all this your income shrinks when you can no longer work. Sixty quids-worth of taxi vouchers each year is a godsend when you have to visit the doctor or the hospital more often, even if you're not officially disabled.

Small-time villains and other parasites who rob or intimidate old people with demands for bogus house repairs make it their business to understand the shortcomings and frailties of old, often lonely people.

Surely councillors could find some extra cash in other budgets that do not serve such sensitive needs and which are not so strapped for cash.

The American comic George Burns understood old age well. Interviewed on television he was asked: "George, how does it feel to be back in the studio on your 99th birthday?" George removed the eternal cigar from between his teeth, leant forward and said: "Listen. When you're 99 it feels good to be anywhere."

DENNIS OWEN

Fishpool Street,St Albans

SIR - When I volunteered for the RAF in WWII, I little thought England would be the lowest in the international league table of pensioner welfare in my latter years.

Margaret Thatcher started the rot in 1980 when she severed the link between the state pension and average earnings. Ever since, the main parties have done little to improve the situation. In June 2009, the national press reported that the OECD list showed the UK to be the lowest in a list of 17 countries, when comparing the state pension with average earnings. In the UK the figure is a mere 31 per cent; Greece, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are over 60 per cent. TheUK is also lower than the USA, Ireland and Japan.

In the UK, 30 per cent of pensioners are below the poverty threshold, they are worse off than those in Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus and Poland and are among the poorest in Europe.

Although a storm of protest (rightly) occurred over the MPs expenses scandal, there was hardly a murmur when the above information was published. Perhaps no one cares, not even those middle aged who hope to live to a ripe old age. In France there would have been riots in the streets had such a report applied to French pensioners.

On a local level things are just as bad. In St Albans taxi vouchers for the elderly are being reduced or withdrawn. The Clinic for the Elderly is being moved from St Albans Hospital to Hemel, this results in the sick and semi-fit facing severe travel difficulties.

Disturbing reports of poor care of the elderly have emerged in the local press, not least in the correspondence columns.

These have mostly referred to local hospitals, I trust the local MPs and the local press have started vigorous campaigns to prod the NHS into belated action.

PETER BROWN

Address supplied

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