The Conference was organised by Manchester City Council , supported by UNISON, TUC and the National Pensioners Convention, various pensioner groups, age related campaigning organisations and charities and academics. Almost 200 delegates attended to discuss how austerity impacts on our ageing society, and what needs to be done practically now and in the future to improve the situation.
The Conference was concluded by a speech from Rodney Bickerstaffe, former UNISON General Secretary and pensioners spokesperson. Rodney drew attention to the 25,000 pensioners who die before their time every year from cold related diseases, derived by comparing winter and summer death rates. In much colder Scandinavia, no such difference exists. Despite much colder winters, Scandinavian societies are more egalitarian and take special care of the more vulnerable whilst still having a higher standard of living than in post Thatcher Britain. He also noted that it was only recently that discrimination between members of different castes , outlawed in India decades ago, was extended to Indians living in the UK. He summoned the spirit of 45 with the phrase “no elites and no untouchables”. The language of many politicians treats older people as though they are not people, but other than society. Yet there are 12 million pensioners and the number will grow.
Paul McGarry, Senior Strategy Manager of Public Health Manchester, Manchester City Council then promised to:
Distill the discussions of the day into a document for circulation.
- Develop campaigns on this through the varying constituent organisations.
- Produce a plan for the run up to 2015.
UNISON WORK SHOP – SOCIAL CARE.
Helga Pile, UNISON national officer outlined UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and UNISON’s campaign for adequate staffing to provide good care. She detailed practical steps now to campaign against negative change and to use the available machinery to speak out for older people and caare workers, but also alluded to campaign demands for 2015 to challenge Austterity. She noted Labour have just gone beyond their previous position to call for integration, as against current disintegration and privatisation, of health and social care begging the question of all services being free at the point of need.
In the Plenary, Dot Gibson, General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention warned delegates that scorn would be poured on Unions in the run up to the General Election but this is wrong. She praised UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and explained that UNISON has done the work and shown the way to improve care. She urged people to read and act on this.