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Click on the image above to read about the work the LPF is doing to improve the lives of senior citizens in the UK and Europe
Reference Budgets -
An EU Project 2012-2014
     

Dignity in old age

Introduction
Lewisham Pensioners Forum is a partner in a European-funded learning partnership promoting social inclusion and dignity in old age. It has at its core, the practical application of the use of ‘reference budgets’ for older people, or as we call them in the UK, ‘minimum income standards’. That is, the amounts of money older people need to live in dignity – not just survive. The Forum will share its experience of our campaigning work to help older people maximise their income and reduce expenditure so that they can live a life of dignity and participate in Civil society.
The partners, from six member states of the European Union, are a mix of national, regional and local organisations of older people as well as a German national agency active in promoting policies and activities to combat poverty in Society. More information about our partners can be found at http://www.dignity-in-old-age.eu/

What we are doing
We focus on learning from each other’s work through visits, exchange of ideas and discussion as well as taking action within our own communities. Lewisham Pensioners Forum brings skills and experience in advocacy and benefit take-up campaigns, as well as strong links with elders from our minority ethnic communities. Our Vice Chair, Bridgit Sam Bailey, Secretary, Jane Hopkins, Elizabeth Sclater and coordinator, Kerry Smith comprise the core group, along with other active Forum volunteers and key stakeholders in the area of benefit take up, debt prevention and social inclusion.

The work we have done
The team have already shared the Forum’s work with their European partners e.g. on the Information Network Directory for Lewisham, (Directory) the results of the SCAM conference on financial vulnerability amongst the older population, (Scams brochure). Jane Hopkins, our Secretary has been active in setting up a number of initiatives promoting digital literacy among elders in Lewisham, ‘Techy Teas’ and a ‘techno-buddy’ scheme in tandem with Goldsmiths University. See IT Report 4 by Jane Hopkins.
Jane has also written a report on Delivering Digital Enlightenment which has been included in the latest Age UK magazine circulated countrywide. You can read her article here (see pages 6 and 7).

The most recent Tea and Teach’ session was held at Barclays Bank Lewisham, on 27th May 2014 at 10am. This ‘tea and teach’ session was the first collaborative venture between Barclays bank and Lewisham Pensioners Forum (LPF), a local voluntary grass-roots organisation managed by volunteers. The one and half hour event was designed to raise the level of digital skills and confidence amongst some of Lewisham’s older residents by giving them the opportunity to ‘play around’ with tablet computers and bring in any of their own digital equipment such as cameras, smart phones or laptops to seek guidance on using them to their best advantage within a relaxed environment. (Click here for full Report by Jane Hopkins)
Another area where Jane was active was with ‘Fit for Purpose’. In this collaborative project ‘Fit for Purpose’ co-ordinated a free 'digital democracy training event' with lunch thrown in on 10th July at the Stephen Lawrence Centre. The day concentrated on the use of social media sites such as blogs twitter, ‘linked-in' etc. so applicants needed to be reasonably confident in their use of a computer. Places were on offer to agencies across South-east London but a handful were reserved specifically for LPF members.

Successful Financial Fairs
We have organised two successful financial fairs, the first in October 2013 where older residents in Lewisham could obtain a range of information about benefits, debt counselling, banking, insurance, consumer and tax advice from the financial services industry, local and national voluntary organisation. The Fair was attended by our partners from Germany and Belgium who were very impressed and our Belgian partners are keen to adapt the model for use in their country. In planning for the Fair the Forum has extended its links and working relationships across a number of local, London, and national organisations and we plan to build on and sustain these links with future events focussed on specific financial topics identified as important by those attending the fair. (Click here for the Financial Fair Report Oct 2013)

The second was held on June 4th and explored the things to consider when thinking ahead about long term care needs even though it may never be needed. It provided an opportunity to hear from experts about current funding arrangements for residential and domiciliary care and how these differ depending on financial circumstances. It provided an opportunity to find out why it is important to undertake financial planning now for the future and to find out what options are possible and what are the alternative arrangements to residential care.

The programme, distributed in advance invited attendees to see what model they best identified with using the financial models A, B or C. Attendees were then invited to make a note of the question they would like answered by the experts.

Person A – Non-property owner renting in the private or public sector dependent only on state benefits with savings and an ‘estate’ worth less than £14,250
Person B – Possible property owner with small occupational pension and ‘assets’of between £14,250 - £23,250 and above the threshold for Pension Credit
Person C – Home-owner with both a state and occupational pension and ‘assets’ (capital/property) above £23,250.
The Information Tables at the event provided another opportunity to draw on the expertise and impartial advice of the assembled representatives from the Financial Services Sector, Consumer Organisations, Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Lewisham’s Adult Social Care Financial Assessment and ‘Staying Put’ teams as well as answer queries and explain the different terms used.

The full report of the Financial Fair for June 2014 by Jane Hopkins will be available shortly

A unique contribution
It is significant that despite experience of migration throughout Europe, we appear to have stronger links with and involvement of our minority ethnic elders than our partners. Thus our initiative to carry out a qualitative survey of elders from the Black and minority ethnic communities regarding social inclusion and money management has been welcomed by all. Bridgit Sam Bailey presented our learning and results at a meeting in Prague in November. Bridgit’s presentation can be accessed here (Prague presentation). A full copy of the report is available here. (BAME report)

Visits to our partners
We have visited Belgium, Germany and Poland so far, with visits to Prague and Sofia in Bulgaria before the end of the project. You can read about these meetings on the project website http://www.dignity-in-old-age.eu/

The project will end in June 2014 at a meeting in Brussels.