AGE Concern has painted a grim picture of the reality of many pensioners’ lives in Jersey, after it was revealed that older Islanders were being disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
A recent report by the Jersey Community Relations Trust showed that 38% of all households being forced to live on £420 a week or less, after housing costs, consisted of pensioners.
Age Concern chair Ben Shenton said: ‘They skip meals or replace fresh healthy foods with cheaper processed alternatives, and through necessity they will save on heating bills, living silently in cold conditions without reaching out because they don’t want to be a burden to anyone.’
Relative low income is calculated at £21,840 a year and is defined as being below 60% of the median income, which is currently £36,400.
Mr Shenton said that membership of the charity, which supports older Islanders, had increased fivefold in recent years, leaving Age Concern doing ‘more than ever’ to provide support for those who needed it.
Failing to address the poverty gap would risk ‘long-lasting damage to the economy and society’, the JCRT warned.
Mr Shenton said the charity regularly witnessed pensioners struggling.
He said: ‘Many pensioners are surviving on a meagre income, increasing the likelihood of experiencing physical and mental-health problems – this is no way for anyone to live, especially not in a “rich Island”.’
He added: ‘If you are elderly, there is little you can do to increase your income, so it is for others, like Age Concern, to step up to the plate.
‘Society often forgets their own when giving to charity and the growth in demand for our services is putting our finances under strain.
‘With ageing demographics and a government seemingly more interested in profit than people, the problem will increase.’
The poverty report stated that almost one in five pensioner households lived on less than half the median income after housing costs, even with the help of income support. Some older Islanders owned property that had increased in value over many years and acted as a cushion for their finances, it added, but many did not and had limited ways of increasing their income.
Assistant Social Security Minister Malcom Ferey said: ‘We understand the concern and would like to reassure our older community that we are committed to providing support and that measures are in place for our Island’s pensioners. The Older Person’s Living Forum is also a great opportunity for us to learn about the challenges that are faced by this sector of our community.
‘We have a number of initiatives to help with the rising cost of living which pensioners may be eligible for – these are available online. In addition, the Minister for Social Security is reviewing the benefits landscape and long-term care in particular, to ensure that our benefits system aligns with pensioners’ needs. As always, our team at Customer and Local Services is available to help and happy to talk through these benefits in more detail. The team can be contacted on 444444 or by visiting gov.je/cls.’